BlacKkKlansman would have still been a powerful, thought-provoking and emotional film had it been released any time before Donald Trump ran for office and eventually won the Presidency, but in this current political climate it’s even more important, as the similarities between America during the civil rights movement in the 1970s and present day America are downright scary.
The film begins with a Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard (Alec Baldwin) standing in front of a screen spewing out rhetoric about how black and Jewish people are turning the pure America into a mongrel nation while scenes from racist 1915 film Birth of a Nation are projected onto his face. He constantly stumbles on his words, trying to find the perfect way to deliver his hate speech while sounding as profound and inspirational to his target audience as he possibly can.
The comparison to Trump and how he unleashes this exact same tone and message in almost all he says is terrifying, yet the point is made without flat out bashing the viewer over the head with it. This is a film about racism and fighting for equality, so a speech like this to kick things off isn’t overly shocking; however, when the current President of the United States is the first thing that comes to mind after hearing such vile words and hatred, well, it just makes you angry and sad to see how little has changed and how bad things currently are – and if it doesn’t, well, that speaks more volumes than any words against you I could write.
BlacKkKlansman is based off the novel by Ron Stallworth, who tells the story of how he became the first African American police officer to join the Colorado Springs Police Department and went on to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. How was this possible? Well, Stallworth responded to an open ad the Klan had posted in the newspaper and contacted them via telephone. When conversations escalated to the point of the local Klan leader wanting to meet Ron in person, Stallworth had his partner, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) take on the role of the Klan-supporting Ron Stallworth for those interactions while Detective Stallworth took care of any conversations over the phone.
Directed by Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman clearly has some evocative political messages within it, but Lee also weaves a comedic tone throughout the film that helps lighten the mood at times. This is the masterful side of Lee at work, as the humour helps keep the story moving at a brisk pace, all while letting him get his point across by all means at his disposal, while making sure none of them take away the importance of the overall takeaway of the film.
The acting job by all involved in this movie is superb, as is their chemistry. Stallworth is played by John David Washington (best known for his role as Ricky Jerret on HBO’s Ballers) and his performance here has not only netted him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Drama, but will no doubt open many more doors for him on the acting front in the future, and rightfully so. Washington is naturally charismatic so he suits the ideals and swagger of Stallworth perfectly, and while the film is heavy in themes and tone, Washington carries that weight with seemingly effortless ease.
It does help, of course, that he’s not alone in this venture, as Driver is also in top form here. While his character of Flip was created for the film (the actual undercover officer who took on this task alongside Stallworth has never been revealed) Driver and Washington work so well together that had this movie been a source of fiction I’d be champing at the bit to see these characters take on future cases together on the big screen.
The supporting cast is just as strong, with Laura Harrier playing Patrice Dumas, the president of the black student union at Colorado College and Stallworth’s love interest; Jasper Pääkkönen and Ryan Eggold playing Felix and Walter, two of the lead local Klansman; and Topher Grace doing a great job as David Duke. And while he’s only in one scene, Corey Hawkins gives a riveting speech as Kwame Ture, who developed the Black Panther movement. It’s an extremely well-handled scene, and Hawkins embodies the power and emotion behind Ture’s words immaculately.
BlacKkKlansman is a wonderfully-crafted film that tells an incredible story of a man who did what many would think the impossible. With Lee behind the camera, the movie has layers that otherwise wouldn’t have been brought to light so poignantly. The videos chosen to close out the film once the story is complete are absolutely heart wrenching and it’s downright sickening to see that with all the time that has passed, there’s still so much vile hatred that surrounds us – and unfortunately seems to have a bigger voice than ever these days.
The film looks fantastic in its Blu-ray transfer, with Lee intertwining older films at times, yet with the entire feature retaining the proper feel and look. The movie has a great, natural feel to it, with a crisp feel and wonderful visual precision throughout. The audio also stands strong, though there are a couple of times when the soundtrack/score can overtake the dialogue earlier on, but it’s incredibly rare and as a whole the lively soundtrack adds to the film as it should over hindering it in any way.
The Blu-ray is light on the special features front, which is unfortunate, as a deeper behind-the-scenes look would’ve been great for a piece like this.
A Spike Lee Joint – This brief five minute featurette sees Ron Stallworth, Jordan Peele (who produced) and the cast discuss working with Spike Lee and on the film.
BlacKkKlansman Extended Trailer Featuring Prince’s “Mary Don’t You Weep”
Universal Pictures Presents BlacKkKlansman. Directed by: Spike Lee. Written by: Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee. Based on the novel by: Ron Stallworth. Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Ryan Eggold, Jasper Pääkkönen, Topher Grace, Corey Hawkins, Alec Baldwin. Running time: 135 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: Nov. 6, 2018.
Tags: Adam Driver, Alec Baldwin, Blackkklansman, Corey Hawkins, Jasper Pääkkönen, John David Washington, Laura Harrier, Ryan Eggold, Spike Lee, Topher Grace