Directed by: Spike Lee
Written by: Charlie Wachtel/David Rabinowitz/Kevin Willmott/Spike Lee
Based on book by: Ron Stallworth
Just…yeah. Holy shit.
(There may be some spoilers in this review. Sorry about that, but there are things I need to talk about and some of those things are about the ending.)
This is exactly the right movie at exactly the right time. Not since Do The Right Thing has Spike Lee had his finger so directly on the pulse of this nation. Bamboozled came close, but it wasn’t quite this good and had some bad press at the time, so it disappeared pretty quickly.
BlacKkKlansman is the true story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), a Colorado Springs rookie cop who took it upon himself to take on the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the early 70s. He was promoted very early on to inspector. One day, he just called up the leader of the local Klan, put on his best white voice, and asked to become a member.
It wasn’t until a bit later that he realized what he had done (including the fact that he used his real name). That’s when he went to his chief (Robert John Burke) for permission to pursue with the help of the surveillieance team, Flip Zimmerman and Jimmy Creek (Adam Driver and Michael Buscemi…Steve’s brother who looks so much like him that I was just shocked that it wasn’t him).
With Flip standing in for him in face to face meetings, Ron manages to infiltrate the Klan and, in fact, rise in its ranks to be the local leader despite the misgivings of Felix (Jasper Pääkkönen), the loose cannon of the Klan Krew. You see, Felix thinks that Ron/Flip is a Jew…which, of course, he is.
Meanwhile, Felix and his wife Connie (Ashlie Atkinson) are planning something awful.
Ron is quickly raising his profile among the Klan and ends up talking to David Duke (Topher Grace) on the phone. But he’s also starting a relationship with the leader of a black student organization, Patrice (Laura Harrier from Spider-Man: Homecoming). Unfortunately, he’s doing so partly because he’s undercover trying to find out if there’s something brewing on that side, too. So, yeah. Starting a relationship with a lie.
Of course, these two sides clash and things start to boil in Colorado Springs.
Just about everything in this movie crackles with relevancy to today’s predicament. The rhetoric that the Klan uses hasn’t changed one bit. It’s just become more mainstream because of certain people rising up in the world of politices to become “leaders.”
As much fun as the film is (and it is a LOT of fun), by the end of it you’re just left in your seat, devestated by how far we haven’t come. The modern footage that is tacked on to the end of the film shows trump saying so many of the things that David Duke said in the 70s, using many of the same phrases (“America First!”) and footage of Duke himself using the words of trump.
Then the footage of Charlottesville. THAT was rough. I knew it was coming, but it still hit me right in the gut and I just had to sit in the theatre for a bit and let the anger and pain wash through me.
Another thing that really hit me was just how stupid all of the Klansmen were. Even Duke. They were all so easily duped and didn’t seem to have too many brain cells to rub together. In fact, they were so stupid that, as a small group, they were completely ineffectual. They had no plans and no organization. They just met every once in a while to shot pool and drink beer. (One of them is played by Paul Walter Hauser with the same mouth-breathing, fake bravura stupidity that he brilliantly put into his character in I, Tonya.)
But once they get a national leader on their side and see that he has his eyes on politics, THAT is when they get dangerous. They start to understand that there are more people like them everywhere. They see their way of life dying out. They gang up together. They form actual plans. And then explosions start.
Contrast this with the organizations of the African Americans in the film. They have meetings. They go to a speech by Kwame Ture (Corey Hawkins) and are filled with hope. They speak of violence (“I would rather you kill a racist cop than a Vietnamese soldier”), but they don’t necessarily advocate it. They see their way of life gaining power even as they feel powerless. The hope on the faces of the people at Ture’s speech is beautiful.
Every single American needs to see this film. I don’t know if it will change minds, but it will show us that this hatred has been going on for a long, long time, and that many of the players are the same. Even if they have different faces, they’re the same idiots. From the opening with Alec Baldwin as Dr Kennebrew Beauregard (a cross between Alex Jones and trump, sputtering and roaring hatred in outtakes of a racist training film) to Harry Belafonte talking about wtinessing a lynching to the closing footage of Charllottesville, this actually IS history written with lightning. (I type that with a big “eff you” to Woodrow Wilson.)
It will also show us that we need to take their power away if we are ever going to beat them again. Do not allow them to win any more elections. Do not allow them to take away our hope. Do not allow them.
The hatred must end.