Review by Owen Herman
BlacKkKlansman is a politically charged and deeply personal film from director/producer Spike Lee. Based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, Colorado Springs Police Department’s first African-American detective, the film follows his attempts to infiltrate the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
John David Washington stars, and shines, as Stallworth, a grounded and motivated cop whose tenacity can only take him so far. To fully infiltrate the KKK, he needs a white officer to impersonate him at face to face meetings. Enter Flip Zimmerman (the always brilliant Adam Driver) a Jewish police officer who agrees to be the undercover Ron Stallworth.
The story is both ludicrous and deadly serious, and Lee manages to fine the near impossible balance between a crime flick with light-hearted moments, and a powerful political piece. Even the humour, a lot of which comes from the sheer stupidity of the members of the KKK, never takes away from the gut-punch that this film is very much based in real life. The stylized 70s vibe (shot delightfully by Chayse Irvin) and multiple reference to the Blaxploitation cinema of the time create this slight fantastical feel to the film, and the moment this illusion, and the illusion of cinema itself, is shattered in the film’s final moments is phenomenally powerful. Lee tackles political issues with a rarely seen boldness; this is not a subtle, clever, winking satire, this is a hammer blow of a film that left the my screening in complete silence.
BlacKkKlansman is one of the films of the year. It is Spike Lee’s unabashed and unquestionably bold political and personal vision in the form of a thrilling crime film, it is Adam Driver showing he is one of the very best actors working today, and it is producer Jordan Peele re-emphasising the fact that he is probably the most exciting voice in cinema.