BlacKkKlansman Review: The highest joint (by Spike Lee) of the year.
The legendary Spike Lee is back with new joint filled with fantastic characters and performances, a strong sense of style, and messages that feel perfectly balanced within the main protagonists.
This joint has viewers follow African-American police officer Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) as he joins a Colorado police force as the first black officer. Frustrated by some of his fellow officers seeing him as inferior for being both black and a rookie, Stallworth finds a way to infiltrate the local KKK chapter. However, there is one major problem; Stallworth is black. So he must team up with white officer Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to trick the clan into thinking that Stallworth is white. The two must now trick the KKK into thinking the two men are the same and figure out what their plans are as tensions rise between them and a Black Student Union.
Washington and Driver have some of the best chemistry I’ve seen on-screen and both give performances that are charismatic and confident. They don’t necessarily agree with one another, but ultimately find common ground in trying to do good for their community. They also never fall into the typical tropes of a black and white officer having racial differences and learning to accept each other’s cultural differences. Rather the two men are already accepting of each other and only finding conflict with one another through the case they are trying to solve.
This aspect is honestly what made me love these two characters and find them so perfect to be a part of messages on racial tolerance. Both agree with their respective “sides” on certain points but are more open to not letting hate take over. I found both Washington and Driver’s characters to be important to this conversation of race as they look at the situation from a mostly un-biased perspective and the film never desires them to pick a side as most other films do.
The two also help divert from choosing a side because as much as he tries, viewers will undoubtedly notice his digs at President Trump. Lee also making some of the KKK members feel like cartoon characters will show what kind of message he tries to send. Moments like these don’t necessarily take away from the messages and ideas that Washington and Driver’s characters bring, but they do feel a little “on the nose” at times.
Topher Grace, who plays KKK leader David Duke, and Laura Harrier, who plays Black Student Union President Patrice Dumas, also lend their spectacular talents to the film. Grace brings the startling charismatic personality of Duke to life and easily steals scenes that he’s in. It’s clearly the best performance of his excellent career. Harrier also shows herself to be one of the best up and coming actresses as she showcases her character’s intelligence and fierce beliefs. She easily became one of my favorites at the start and shared some great chemistry with Washington.
BlacKkKlansman also brings up some interesting 70s cultural references that meld perfectly into the character’s discussions. Whether it was discussions on Vietnam or callouts to Blaxploitation films of the time, these topics and references feel completely authentic. The topics are brought up in a more organic and conversational way making it feel more like listening to someone’s thoughts over and educational lesson.
Where Lee deserves the most credit, though, is his ability and clear desire to have a real conversation that gives both sides a chance to speak. BlacKkKlansman could’ve easily been a film that plasters its message with no real substance or fun moments, but thanks to Lee’s comedic style and ability to let loose and have fun with the story the film becomes a truly unique experience.
It even includes relevant social topics, thoughts, and ideas that gives viewers something to think, or even talk about, as they leave the theater. I especially found moments where Lee shows the parallels between the Black Student Union leaders and the KKK to be extremely thought provoking. These moments are only made even more powerful as viewers are able to see Washington and Driver’s reactions and recognize possibly new thoughts.
BlacKkKlansman is not only Spike Lee’s best film, but without a doubt one of the best films of the year thus far. His ability to create and find talented actors and tell an entertaining and important story shows his dedication to film. It’s a film and a perspective that could be used now and could be a great way to spark a much needed discussion.