‘BlackKklansman’ by Spike Lee

Director: Spike Lee

Cinematographer: Chayse Irvin

Writers: Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel, Kevin Willmott

Stars: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace

Rating: 86

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The moment I read the title of this film and saw who was directing it I was ecstatic. Spike Lee directing a story about an undercover black cop, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan with the help of his *q*white buddy cop, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), as the race tensions build in this small Colorado town.

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This film has it all: buddy cop feeling to the film that bleeds in some real, serious themes into the narrative. It’s a film that is endlessly funny and crushed with some deranged, dark, and hilarious humor.  It’s also an important film in a lot of ways, and Spike Lee made sure to get his message across, sometimes almost jarring the audience out of the story.

The overall tone of BlackKklansman reminds me of the classic Cold War satire, ‘Dr. Strangelove,’ in the sense that Kubrick couldn’t tell a serious story about nuclear combat without exposing the sheer lunacy of it all, henceforth making that film a satire over a serious drama. This film operates in a similar sense, and in many ways, humiliates these people that blindly follow their backward ass ideas. The main characters quite literally don’t take the Klan seriously. This aspect works so well with the message in this film.

Spike ‘Motherfucking’ Lee

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  • I love this man. His range as a director is impressive with his latest work on BlackKklansmen. His vision of two loud, vocal minority groups, juxtaposed to display the pure hypocrisy in the racist approach as opposed to black people who have simply been oppressed by these people for generations. It’s literally juxtaposed between a Klan rally, and the local college club putting on a speaking engagement for Harry Belafonte, who tells a horrible story of Jesse Washington’s murders. Spike Lee, through a wide variety of editing and storytelling techniques, shows off these two vastly different communities almost perfectly, side-by-side.

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  • Obviously, Ron Stallworth is not a Malcolm X type character, but there’s the same level of passion and fire in these characters than in Lee’s 1992 film ‘Malcolm X’ and similar rhetoric. laura Harrier’s character is a great embodiment of the spirit, and her character is the strong-willed leader Malcolm X craved to see among black leaders. Her commitment to her cause is inspiring as nothing yields for the purpose of her character. She’s the most powerful actor in the film.

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  • It’s easily one of the best-directed films of the year. The set designs and most of the creative decisions worked very well. Starting the film, with the toned down aspect ratio, showing the south after the civil war, beckoning back to the humiliation that those families have carried since. All of Lee’s decisions help bring out this idea that the KKK is nothing but a bunch of unintelligent white men who have an inferiority complex.
  • Any scene with a crowd is powerful. Even the scenes with David Duke (Topher Grace), giving these racist, ironic speeches are magnetizing, and most of those scenes are cut alongside a scene from the black power movement. It’s a brilliant use of editing, and once again, gets that ultimate point across.
  • However, the story injects too much real world into this film. I believe even without the last few scenes, people would walk out of BlackKklansman making all the connections to the current administration without someone hold your hand and pointing directly at what to look at.
  • The theme of black beauty is also presented quite frequently. The decision to show the up-close faded out faces of black people during Kwame Ture (Corey Hawkins) speech. It helped get the point across that despite what the world says,  black people are beautiful. It was weird, at first, but the more that scene progressed the more powerful the speech became because of the diverse, raw faces displayed alongside the speech.
  • Lastly, Spike interjected a number of important black pop-culture references like “Superfly,” but also exposed a new generation to D.W. Griffith’s racist picture ‘The Birth of a Nation’ and even goes into detail on how damaging that film was which is ironic considering BlackKklansman is a film doing something similar from a completely opposite perspective. The directing from Lee is an all-encompassing feel to a film that essentially boils down to a buddy-cop film. It’s outstanding.

Performances

  • While the overall plot was thin, the interactions and relationships in the film are a goldmine of hilarity. The fact that Ron Stallworth establishes this mentoring connection with “the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan” and has weekly chats where Stallworth essentially insults his intelligence. It’s these ironic friendships in the narrative that make it such a funny movie. I was legitimately belly laughing off some of the performances.

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  • John David Washington was the standout as the lead. His laidback, buddy cop style was perfect for this story, and help gives the film that eased back feel despite a story of deep hatred and oppression. The filmmaking leads to some truly bizarre encounters, but it’s all set up by Washington’s fantastic performance.
  • Adam Driver was also magnificent and also fit like a glove as the second member of one Ron Stallworth head. He was the missing piece in the buddy cop scenario. Watching Driver head into situations that are potentially life-threatening with the same corniness and confidence Stallworth does over the phone.
  • It’s not often extras get a mention in 2018, but the flashy, well-designed crowds brought this extra aesthetic. The crowds stuck out because of the ferocity.
  • BlackKklansman is filled with memorable moments, and I believe it will be a film that people revisit often. It’s easily the funniest film of the year and has some of the best pure comedy writing. For example, the moment Ron Stallworth tells David Duke who he really is is actually filmmaking gold. That scene will always stick with me.
  • WE ALSO GOT AN ISIAH WITLOCK JR. CLASSIC “SHIEEEEEEEEET”

Verdict

Go out and purchase a movie ticket, asap. BlackKklansman is an endearing film and one that shines a light directly on a problem in this country. It feels like a response to the political climate, but in every way, imaginable takes a shot at the current administration and points out the ridiculousness of our current ordeal. It’s very relevant to today, especially considering David Duke played a major role in the 2016 election.

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The filmmaking shines here. The plot is actually thin, but the literal writing on the page is so interesting that the lack of story isn’t distracting or disengaging. It always intrigues by experiencing situations that seem so out there, even for a film. It’s got a brilliant premise that is executed almost perfectly. It’s one film I’ll be returning to quite often.


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