Picking up lots of potential awards season heat and rightfully so, this Spike Lee joint sizzles with a totally resonant consciousness, one that has you feeling both amused and angered by the racial divides seen on screen.
Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) wants to be a cop and make a difference. He gets hired by the Colorado Springs police department and after a while he makes a call to the Ku Klux Klan and pretends to be an angry racist white man to infiltrate and find out about any possible racially motivated attacks. Detective Zimmerman (Adam Driver) takes the mantle of Ron and goes along to KKK meet ups and finds out there could be trouble brewing.
The Ron Stallworth brothers story cleverly mixes a healthy amount of identity comedy and ridiculing the white cloaked members of the KKK. It also is a narrative that can make you feel on edge, uneasy I’d go as far to say as well, flashes of nasty racism and worrying statements uttered that are clearly meant to echo what has been said by Trump’s America all do their job in creating this timely cooking pot of tensions and prejudice.
This is never a film that pokes its finger at white people being the whole issue and painting them with the same brush, which a lesser movie could easily have done. We’re shown a comradery with most of the figures in the police force; a brilliantly applause worthy scene in a bar near the end shows this tight unit at play.
Spike Lee gives this movie a hell of a lot of style, as Ron and student president Patrice talk about black icons, the film shows Pam Grier and Shaft posters, these on-screen billboards and newspaper cutouts all add a punchy visual way of storytelling. Barry Alexander Brown utilises some enhancing cuts, a frequent amount of overlapping edits further add to the 70’s set world. There’s a excellent smooth dolly shot of Ron and Patrice and a burning cross in the final moments which is spooky, coolly spine-tingling and damn effective in mimicking a style straight out of those 70’s movies they were chatting about.
As the actor-led story finishes, we see clashes in Charlottesville from 2017, which really boils the blood and becomes a sobering, stark reminder of how far America truly has to go to be the great nation Donald Trump thinks it is. When the screen went black, the audience was movingly silent causing one of the most immersive reactions I’ve felt in the cinema for a while.
‘BlacKkKlansman’ is a hugely powerful film that has brilliant 1970 production design but sadly sounds like it’s come right out of now. The issue of racial struggles in America and the questions of how it’s still going on are all expertly scripted and performed in this comedy drama.