Winner of the 2nd Best film award (Grand Prix) at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, BlacKkKlansman is a witty drama which is based on the true story of a black detective who went undercover to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. Whilst not perfect, the film’s fusion of great humour and an original tale of race relations in the 70’s, makes for director Spike Lee’s best work since his 2006 film Inside Man.
What sold this film to me was the entertaining dynamic between its two leads John David Washington (son of Denzel Washington funnily enough) and Adam Driver (aka Kylo Ren from Star Wars). Their relationship shared many great exchanges and witty remarks, whilst they worked together to figure out how they would be able to pull off something so ridiculous.
This is because Washington’s character, a black rookie detective Ron Stallworth, has created a white alter-ego of himself, to help him infiltrate the KKK through only conversations over the phone. Whilst Driver’s character, a white detective Flip Zimmerman, is roped into posing as this white “Ron Stallworth” imaginary figure, for any in physical meetings and dealings with the KKK. Such a setup is why I term it as a ridiculous stunt to pull off and ultimately provides the charm for why I enjoyed the film.
I also liked the fact that given the story is set in the 70’s, there was a clear effort in making this film really feel like an artefact from that time. From the costume designs to the production sets of the cars and houses that were used, everything about the presentation felt genuine to what I imagine living in the 70’s would look like. This was also wonderfully supported, with the interactions between Washington and Driver’s characters. Who in one scene comically discussed the differences between how black and white men are “meant to talk”. In turn subtly smartly poking fun at such stereotypes.
My only real gripe is that the story tended to drag out in certain sections. There would be periods of time where I felt like I was flying through and enjoying the film, then suddenly, the plot would come to a halt and decide to unnecessarily take its time.
Some of these slower moments occurred whenever the story wanted to focus on hitting home a message about the racial culture of the period and its parallels to racism today. These came off as frivolous scenes that prevented progressing the story, which was already pointing out these same themes of racial relation parallels in numerous other scenes.
As the best example of such a case, the film ended by showing a montage of racially driven riots that have occurred in recent years. In my opinion, this was overkill to include as it came off as a blatant attempt of force-feeding a message that was already well understood since the film started. At that point, I felt that Spike Lee was using this film more as a mouthpiece to spread his own personal motif against the current racial culture in America, rather than telling this unbelievably hilarious and dramatic true story.
Having said all that, those moments where the film does come to a halt thankfully don’t happen that often to the point where it drags down everything else that was great about the movie. BlacKkKlansman is a witty and well-produced film that tells of a ridiculous story that somehow actually transpired in the past. And I’ll be recommending you give this one a watch in the cinemas when you can. See it.