Laura Sighs’s review published on Letterboxd:
I’ve never questioned the style and magical direction of Spike Lee. 25th Hour is a true directorial feat and an all around phenomenal movie. Where I’ve found myself on the shadow side of polarizing takes with his films, is that there are scenes which don’t settle within my spirit. These explorations to travel down certain paths have thrown my equilibrium off, and I am divisive with myself on a movie I should like, but ineffectiveness I cannot ignore. He and I agree on one of those moments in She’s Gotta Have It. The scene I took issue with is the only regret he says he had in an interview with Deadline. He points to his immaturity at the time. But Spike is no longer immature, and so I drift back to a place where my heart and mind are arguing with each other.
I feel Spike took the real Ron Stalworth’s memoir and tried to “Inglorious Bastards” it in an attempt to change the narrative of race relations in this country. There is a decision in the film I don’t know if everyone caught. Ron is begrudgingly handing out files, and even though he’s taking racist jabs from other Colorado Springs officers - he doesn’t settle into his assignment on the infiltration of the Black Student Union. Yes, he goes to the meeting with Kwame and reports back, but he makes the decision after to call for an ad with the Klan so he can try to expose the real threat in the community. This decision led me down a path of believing the film I was going to see would be artful and make the right people uncomfortable and strengthened in their allyship. The images of black people staring into the camera during Kwame’s speech was wondrous. But, the longer it went on, the more I clamored for the visionary threads to stay together. At the end they were just frayed bits of string.
I know he isn’t preaching to me. I’d like to think he’s trying to take white people - who will stare upon his films - down a looking glass of the doltish nature of racism, or the micro aggressions of “sounding white”. I’d like to think he was intentional in focusing on Heather Heyer’s death at the end to try to show a likeness to the audience he meant to reach.
I believe I get why he made this film, but it’s hard to look directly in the hue coming off that dolly shot on this one...not gonna lie. This construct of racism isn’t a fad and it’s not cyclical. I don’t expect perfection from Spike Lee - but the scales are set in a way where black people gotta be damn near perfect to not ruin everything for all of us. If you don’t believe me - look at what’s happening with Jussie Smollett. IF he did what they say - then that is truly awful. When it was written that he was a suspect - the news was loud and large. Instant vilification. None of this wait for the facts noise - people were ready for a slip up from black people about racial discourse. Now that the developments are turning back in his “favor”, and things are being retracted - the recall is barely above a hush. A whole body of people will be viewed as distrustful and conspirers to usurp the political and economical power of white people, off of one person’s bad decision (again IF this is true). There are a ton of people who already view us as less than, and liars, and degenerates - but now they have someone to point to, to solidify their bullshit. All it takes is one individual our hue to fuck up and it’s “I told you so”. This is the power of racism. There is no grace bestowed upon us. Black people have to turn the other cheek, be the bigger person...all because if we don’t, then the people disgorging bigotry will weaponize our less than pristine and perfect actions against us. I see incompetence coming from all orfices of certain white people (I’m thinking about just one in particular who is screwing up literally every other second), and I never EVER hear it as a condemnation for the whole. This is the difference, and that’s why when these stories get told - the margin of error holds such high stakes.
When you put in the beginning that this is fo’ real fo’ real shit which happened - you are playing into so many audience members who don’t bother to research past their nose and in turn can take a well intentioned hope and use it to justify unjust things which still happen to this day (as Lee shows at the end). The film serves “justice” to many of the white people we see - but in reality - it didn’t go down that way, and it routinely doesn’t happen to this day. Sometimes the brutality won’t hit the same if the outrage of getting away with it, is erased.
I watched this before the Oscars, and I’m truly glad Spike finally got that gold statue - I just wish it would’ve been for another film. Yet and still - this would’ve been a better choice by lightyears over Green Book...I still am just...wow. Yeah.