Sunday, 2 September 2018

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

Blackkklansman
Director: Spike Lee
Running Time: 135 Minutes
Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace, Jasper Pääkkönen, Ryan Eggold, Paul Walter Hauser, Ashlie Atkinson, Corey Hawkins

A tale that's so crazy it's true, Spike Lee brings to screen a story adapted from the 2014 memoir, Black Klansman. What's included contains quite the cinematic premise, which Lee mixes in with hard-hitting social relevance, leaving us with a real highlight from this year.

The first black detective in the Colorado Springs police department, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) sets out to prove his worth by infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan. While he communicates with members over the phone, he manages to send fellow Detective Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to meet them in person.

Front and centre is John David Washington, portraying a man intent on using his position to make a difference, while being aware of the limitations. He's fighting against broke system which protects officers who shoot children, or sexually assault women they stop, while a black spokesman is considered more dangerous than the Ku Klux Klan. The inner struggle of our lead is clear, and Washington does a phenomenal job in bringing it to screen.

More than just the physical side of Ron's cover identity, Adam Driver plays the clear beating heart of this film. He's a Jewish man who never truly considered his identity as such, but after spending time within such a horrific hate group, he's left thinking about nothing else. Also deserving a mention is Laura Harrier, doing a strong job in portraying outspoken activist Patrice, and a suitably oily Topher Grace as Grand Wizard of the Klan, David Duke.

Through depicting a premise which initially sounds like the basis for a comedy sketch, Spike Lee has made a late '70s set story feel contemporary, and have clear resonance with present day issues relating to race. It tackles these difficult aspects in such a hard-hitting manner, while also allowing for doses of humour to reside within, without feeling like an outright comedy, or undermining the horrific aspects. It's like how the Klan members are depicted as both comedic morons, but also as frightening figures of hate. One standout moment shows Harry Belafonte recounting a horrific tale about a young boy being lynched, which Lee intercuts with the Ku Klux Klan cheering at footage from The Birth of A Nation. It's a powerful moment to behold, and underlines the vital difference between the chantings of "Black Power" and "White Power".

Thankfully, Lee doesn't fall into the trap often seen in films, where the racism is highlighted merely as a horrendous thing that's in the past, as though everything is okay now. The film ends on footage of the 2017 Charlottesville Rally, a way to hit viewers hard that the horrific hate culture of white supremacists is still in existence today, and with accompanying footage of Donald Trump's failure to condemn such horrific actions, the saddening reality is how prominent it remains.

BlacKkKlansman has moments of humour dotted throughout, but none of them undermine the hard-hitting moments of human horror in this nearly 40 year old story which still holds relevance to this day. With a terrific cast on-hand to deliver the compelling material, and a coda that hits especially hard, this is something truly unforgettable, that rings especially true in such troubling times.

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