RELEASED: 24th August 2018
DIRECTOR: Spike Lee
CAST: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace, Jasper Pääkkönen, Ryan Eggold, Paul Walter Hauser, Ashlie Atkinson, Corey Hawkins, Michael Buscemi, Ken Garito, Robert John Burke, Fred Weller, Nicholas Turturro, Harry Belafonte, Alec Baldwin, Isiah Whitlock Jr. and Damaris Lewis
BOX OFFICE WORLDWIDE: $93.4m
AWARDS: 1 Academy Award (Best Adapted Screenplay) and 1 BAFTA (Best Adapted Screenplay)
Based on a true story, BlacKkKlansman transports us back to the early 1970’s where we follow Ron Stallworth, the first African-American detective to serve at the Colorado Springs Police Department. Determined to make a name for himself after being reassigned to the intelligence division, Stallworth sets out on a dangerous mission…to infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan. As he calls the Colorado chapter of the KKK posing as a white man, he soon recruited more seasoned colleague, Flip Zimmerman, to pose as Stallworth in the flesh when he meets the chapter, as the two attempt to take down the extremist organisation that aims to sanitise its violent rhetoric to appeal to the mainstream.
BlacKkKlansman is based on the fascinating true story of how an African-American detective infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan chapter in Colorado in 1979. This is a story that was meant to be brought to life by Spike Lee, whose previous films have never shied away from tackling race relations and political issues, and he tackles the material with such earnestness that it makes for some powerful viewing, such as Alec Baldwin’s opening prologue as white supremacist mouthpiece Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard, the KKK initiation ceremony being blended in with a civil rights activist talking to black students union members, to the films conclusion of highlighting real-life footage of 2017 far-right rally in Charlottesville, highlighting how white supremacy (and David Duke) have never gone away. The film is wonderfully edited by Barry Alexander Brown, with the cinematography from Chayse Irvin being a highlight aswell, particularly in how he captures the water draining from an overpass in the background of a meeting between Ron Stallworth and an FBI agent. While the film has its dramatic moments, it’s also comedic in how it handles the material, particularly in how we’re in on Stallworth being African-American, leading to some comedic moments when he’s speaking with KKK members and, in particular, David Duke, who at one point states to Ron he can tell the difference between how a black person sounds compared to a white person. John David Washington gives a nuance and charismatic performance as Ron Stallworth, an eager rookie looking to make a name for himself but shoots his on foot sometimes (particularly when he uses his own name when talking to the organisation). Adam Driver brings depth and dry-wit with his performance as Flip Zimmerman, who acts as the ‘public figure’ of Stallworth’s character when meeting the Klan. Their chemistry is also what makes the film work as they bounce off each other perfectly. The supporting cast is really good as well, from Laura Harrier as Patrice Dumas, to Topher Grace as the ‘grand wizard’ David Duke. Out of the supporting players however, it was Jasper Pääkkönen that impressed me the most as KKK member of the Colorado chapter Felix Kendrickson, who is continuously suspicious of Ron Stallworth (Flip Zimmerman) and just brought that air of menace/tension everytime him and Driver shared the screen together.
FAVOURITE SCENE: As we witness Flip and a few others being initiated into the Ku Klux Klan at a ceremony, it’s intercut with African-American civil rights activist, Jerome Turner, speaking with the black students union at Colorado College about the lynching of Jesse Washington, as well as the impact of the 1915 film Birth of a Nation had in creating the KKK, which after the initiation ceremony, they watch the film gleefully. It’s a well edited, powerful sequence in the film.
FAVOURITE QUOTE: “I’m Jewish, but I wasn’t raised to be. It wasn’t part of my life, I never thought much about being Jewish, nobody around me was Jewish. I wasn’t going to a bunch of Bar Mitzvahs, I didn’t have a Bar Mitzvah. I was just another white kid. And now I’m in some basement denying it out loud. (chuckles) I never thought much about it, now I’m thinking about it all the time. About rituals and heritage. Is that passing? Well then I have been passing.” – Flip Zimmerman
DID YOU KNOW: Contrary to popular belief, the real Ron Stallworth never used a “white” voice on the phone. He ironically had to use his real voice or they would have caught him if he slipped out of character. When his white colleagues told him it could not work, he asked what made his voice any different from theirs and they never answered.