Spike Lee’s long-awaited new film, finally hit cinemas this past Friday and it has already stirred up many a conversation about racism and the current political situation in the United States. Because, even though BlacKKKlansman is set in the 1970s, based on the memoir Black Klansman by black police officer Ron Stallworth, the film feels more contemporary than ever. Never one to shy away from sharing his opinions and views about the world, Spike Lee has created a powerful piece of cinema which depicts racism and injustice as it really is.
The film follows Ron Stallworth (played by an incredible John David Washington), a black police officer who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan by establishing contact over the phone, and having his white colleague Flip (Adam Driver) pretend to be him in real life. This leads to many complicated – and at times hilarious – moments that are portrayed brilliantly by the cast. However, as the plot thickens, Spike Lee fails to build tension effectively, and this causes the movie’s climax to be somewhat underwhelming.
Still, the film is overall widely entertaining and Spike Lee’s clever way of combining scenes of old classics, like Gone with the Wind and The Birth of a Nation, make the film especially powerful. Not to mention the film’s ending. Whereas many period dramas about racial injustice and violence tend to end on a lighter, more positive note, Spike Lee opts for a far more realistic conclusion. He destroys any previous optimism created by our characters’ storylines, by showing footage of the Charlottesville rallies and President Trump’s subsequent comments (in which he said there were ‘very fine people on both sides’).
This conclusion feels like a harsh slap in the face but is at the same time, incredibly necessary. Spike Lee has created a film that leaves you thinking and is one of the first – of hopefully many – bold and refreshing new takes on American cinema.
REELculture. rating: 4.5 stars