BlacKkKlansman ★★★★½

BlacKkKlansman is a riotous, unsettling, and somehow continually hilarious look at the history of racism and bigotry in America, all through the story of one larger than life sting operation.

Spike Lee is never the most subtle filmmaker, but this is by far his strongest and most coherent work in years. Although the movie does fumble a few tonal shifts and could afford to lose a few scenes, for the most part, Lee keeps audiences engaged as the tense narrative unfolds at an exciting pace. His cinematic style and greater commentary about the dangers of these idiotic yet alluring individuals (along with their relation to our current Commander in Chief) elevate what can occasionally be a fairly traditional (albeit enjoyable) police procedural narrative. Despite any prior bumps in the road, he absolutely lands the third act (which contains one of the most suspenseful climaxes I’ve seen in recent memory) and the painfully relevant postscript (which features real-life footage from the Charlottesville riots to devastating effect). While I would’ve liked to see a bit deeper analysis of the inner workings of the KKK and their influence on society (as their portrayal here can sometimes border on broad caricature), I was nevertheless repeatedly intrigued and horrified at the connections between the “bygone era of 70s racism” and today’s current political climate. 

Lee’s sharp screenplay additionally provides plenty of dynamic character interactions for Ron & Flip in particular, and each individual faces unique, multidimensional struggles as they grapple with contrasting aspects of their racial/cultural identity alongside their job requirements. However, it is the stellar performances of John David Washington and Adam Driver that truly sell these roles. Washington is a bonafide movie star, channeling all the suave confidence and charisma of his father while standing strongly on his own as well. He has tangible, energetic chemistry with both Driver and Laura Harrier, who plays his activist girlfriend that strongly opposes the police force, putting Washington’s Ron Stallworth in a precarious position. Driver’s role is much more subdued here, but he absolutely delivers as a Jewish officer who is forced to confront a heritage he has long felt disconnected from after he is subjected to the relentless verbal attacks of the KKK whilst undercover.

BlacKkKlansman isn’t a perfect or subtle film by any means, but it’s a damn effective one nonetheless. The impact it leaves on viewers far outshines most of my nitpicks regarding pacing and tone, as Lee knows just where to strike viewers with his powerful vision. It’s quite nauseating to see the ways that seemingly foolish men can package hate in order to “sell” their heinous ideas to the public at large, and this film really makes an effort to force audiences to open their eyes and question our complacency with the material we are consuming and absorbing everyday.

2018 Ranked
Blumhouse Ranked
Spike Lee Ranked

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