Directed by: Spike Lee
Runtime: 135 minutes
I went into BlacKkKlansman with mediocre expectations. I saw the trailer, thought it looked interesting and engaging, but never felt compelled to look into it in much detail. It was only when I was at the screening did I realise it was under the direction of Spike Lee, and from the moment the film began, it surprised me. While I walked in to the cinema thinking I would see a decent dark comedy, I left feeling blown away.
BlacKkKlansman, set in the ‘funky’ 1970s, is a satirical, comedic look at the very real story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first African-American cop on the Colorado Springs police force. Motivated to make a difference in Colorado Springs’ intelligence division, Stallworth infiltrates the Klu Klux Klan using his ‘white voice’ over the phone, as his Jewish colleague Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) acts as his Caucasian body double.
While marketed as a quirky comedy, Spike Lee’s unrelenting approach to the subject matter brings the film a step above its ilk. That’s not to say the entire flick is a serious endeavour—quite the opposite—the laughs do hit, and occasionally they hit hard. But by making clear links between its comedy and today’s reality, the film left me unsure of whether I should be laughing or crying at the state of our society. Rather than merely confronting us with a harsh truth, Lee ends up unapologetically pushing the entire audience’s face against his message, ensuring there is no escape from reflection after the credits roll.
The film’s cinematography is more inventive than it has any right to be. Taking inspiration from blaxploitation films, Lee employs the use of screen wipes, interesting zooms, and awesome transitions. From the film’s first frame, you realise that this isn’t any simple cop-comedy film and, to be honest, you are better off for it. In any other hands, this film could have been relegated to a mediocre biopic toeing the line between political validity and a safe marketability. What we get instead is a film that will stay in your mind for a while after leaving the cinema.
There are not many films I would classify as a must-watch, but BlacKkKlansman is one of them. It is simultaneously confronting, hilarious, and emotional. Go see it, you won’t be disappointed.