**** out of five stars
Legendary director/writer/producer Spike Lee weaves a biopic about Ron Stallworth, a real-life Colorado Springs policeman who ingeniously infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan with a little help from his friends.
In 1979, Stallworth (played by John David Washington) became the first black officer in the Colorado Springs police department. One fateful day, he stumbles upon a newspaper ad for the KKK. On a whim, he calls the number and, pretending to be a racist white man, speaks with Walter Breachway (Ryan Eggold), the president of the Klan’s local chapter. Stallworth recruits his co-worker, the white, Jewish Detective Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to pose as him to meet the Klan’s members in person. With Zimmerman pretending to be Stallworth at Klan meetings, and Stallworth himself still handling phone meetings, the two get inside information of the Klan’s planned attacks and even encounter its Grand Wizard, David Duke (Topher Grace). The Klan’s planned bomb attack endangers Stallworth’s new girlfriend, black activist Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier). Can Stallworth and company stop the Klan’s attack and save Patrice?
BlacKkKlansman is an intriguing mixture of genres and themes. It is a film based on true events, dealing with racism and civil rights. It also has a wicked, satirical sense of humor. Somehow, the film manages to blend its humor with enough serious and dramatic elements to form a fuller package.
A fair amount of the humor and heart of the movie comes from the banter between Stallworth, Zimmerman and their fellow officers, as they cautiously embark on a quest to infiltrate the KKK. Another source of humor is the KKK members themselves. Not only is their racist agenda made to look foolish, but we also see how they can have a dimension of folksy hospitality contrasting with their terrorist activities. The Klansmen are still portrayed as a credible threat, particularly towards the last act of the film when they are ready to put their plans into action and start to get wise to Stallworth & Zimmerman’s ruse.
But the most interesting piece of character development comes from Stallworth’s relationship with Patrice. Patrice is the president of the Black Student Union at Colorado College, and, due to her bad experiences with racist cops, she feels that the entire police system is corrupt. Stallworth thus does not tell her at first that he is a cop but still tries to make the argument that there are good policemen out there. With the topic of police brutality becoming even more heated in recent years, these two characters represent different sides to an argument that is both timely and timeless.
If you’re a fan of Spike Lee or movies about civil rights, BlacKkKlansman is most certainly worth checking out. The film sits nicely alongside other contemporary films about the Black American experience, like Get Out and the upcoming The Hate U Give.