"BlacKkKlansman" (2018)- Movie Review

Written and Directed by Spike Lee
Co-written by Charlie Watchel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott
Starring John David Washington, Adam Driver and Topher Grace

‘Enlightening Entertainment’

Racism has long been a part of American history. Whether we like to admit it or not, there has always been tension between blacks and whites in society. When did it all begin? Arguably, it all started in the 1950’s. During this turbulent time, African-Americans stood up for their rights as the civil rights movement took place. However, an organization that came in their way was the Klu Klux Klan. A white supremacy group with strong beliefs, it threatened to wipe out the African-American race. It wasn’t until the early 1970’s that an African-American police officer managed to infiltrate and expose the Klan.

Spike Lee’s latest film “BlacKkKlansman” is a hilarious satire that sheds light on this important time in American history. A sharp, witty and thoroughly entertaining film, it brings to life a remarkable true story. With his latest film, writer/director Spike Lee has crafted a powerful portrait of racism in the 1970’s. Packed with plenty of laughs, impressive production values and terrific performances from a talented cast, it is a film that works on nearly every level. Not only is it entertaining, but it educates viewers about a forgotten time in American history. Due to its racist themes, “BlacKkKlansman” isn’t a film that will appeal to everyone. That being said, it delivers a timely message that will surely be talked about in the years to come.

Set in 1972, “BlacKkKlansman” tells the true story of an African-American cop that infiltrated the Klu Klux Klan. John David Washington stars in the lead role as Ron Stallworth, the first ever African-American police officer in working Colorado. After being hired, Ron is assigned a case to investigate the Klu Klux Klan. With the help of an undercover cop (Adam Driver), he sets out on a dangerous mission to expose the movement.

It’s an incredible true story that is expertly brought to life by writer/director Spike Lee. Ever since he rose to prominence, Lee has proven to be one of the most fearless filmmakers in the world. Whether it is a biopic on a civil rights activist or racial satire, he has never been afraid to tackle controversial subject matter. His films are always beautifully shot, and focus on the racism that African-Americans endure in society. And “BlacKkKlansman” is no exception. It’s a visually captivating film that brings to life a remarkable real-life story. Through gorgeous cinematography, Lee transports the viewer back in time to the 1970’s. From the dazzling costumes to the funky hair-dos, the film captures the time period extremely well. From a technical standpoint, it may be the the most impressive film that Spike Lee has made to date. “BlacKkKlansman” is worth watching on the big-screen for its production values alone.

If gorgeous production values are not what attract you to the theater, though, there are still plenty of other reasons to see “BlacKkKlansman”. Although it deals with serious issues such as racism, the film is packed with laughs from start to finish. Who would’ve thought that a movie about racism would be this funny? Definitely not me. It is not easy to infuse humor into such a serious subject, but Spike Lee manages to pull this off effortlessly. The jokes are sharp, witty and cleverly written. Not once does the humor come across as distasteful or the least bit offensive. Instead, Lee smartly uses the humor to keep the viewer invested in the story and characters. For instance, one of the funniest scenes in the film is when a black police officer talks to the leader of the Klu Klux Klan over the telephone. Not only does the scene work because of the sharp dialogue, but also due to the perfect comic timing of the actors.

In terms of acting, it is hard to not admire the brilliant performances from the cast. In the year’s most award-worthy ensemble, every actor gets the chance to shine and leave a lasting impression.

John David Washington delivers a star-making performance as real-life hero Ron Stallworth. In his first ever leading role, Washington commands every scene he is in with the charm and confidence of a born-to-be movie star. Whether he is arguing with a white police-officer or fighting against racism, Washington captures the struggles of an African-American who is treated poorly due to the color of his skin. At the age of 34, Washington is still young and hasn’t quite achieved the level of stardom of his father (the great Denzel Washington). That being said, this powerhouse performance will surely get him noticed and pave the way for a bright career in the industry.

Adam Driver is amazing in the role of an undercover cop assigned to investigate the Klu Klux Klan. This is the actor unlike you’ve ever seen him before: intense, charismatic and funny in his most compelling role to date. As an undercover cop pretending to be someone else, Driver continues his successful run of playing quirky and offbeat characters. With an easy-going charm and perfect comic timing, he steals nearly every scene he is in. It’s a terrific performance from one of the most seasonally talented actors working today.

Although “BlacKkKlansman” offers an enlightening look at an important time in American history, ultimately it not a film without flaws. If I had a minor issue with the movie, it would be the lengthy running time. At a little over two hours, it is slightly overlong and drags towards the end. With the help of an energetic score, director Spike Lee keeps the film moving at a brisk pace during the first hour. However, once the film enters its final act it starts to lose steam and test the viewer’s patience. While the ending packs a powerful punch, it is slightly heavy-handed and lacks subtlety. As a result, “BlacKkKlansman” is not a film that will please everyone. Some viewers will be moved by its message, while others will likely find it upsetting.

Nevertheless, fans of Spike Lee’s previous films will definitely enjoy “BlacKkKlansman” and so will anyone willing to watch it. In a day and age when racism is rarely ever discussed or talked about, it is one of those rare films that shines a spotlight on this issue.

At a time when racism remains an issue in America, it is reassuring to be reminded that movies like “BlacKkKlansman” are still getting made.

4/5 stars

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