By KHASHAYAR GHAFFARIEH
BlacKkKlansman is a 2018 American biographical comedy-drama film directed by Spike Lee based on the 2014 memoir “Black Klansman” by Ron Stallworth. Many consider the movie to be Spike Lee’s return to old form, as he has not had a widely acclaimed movie in over a decade. The movie has won awards such as the Cannes Grand Prix and is receiving Oscar buzz for the upcoming Academy Awards. Staring John David Washington and Adam Driver as the main protagonists, the film is a triumph in both of their young careers. John David Washington steps out of his father, Denzel Washington’s shadow, and Adam Driver proves that he is more than just the antagonist in Star Wars. The plot is set in 1979, and it follows the first African-American detective in the Colorado Springs police department, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington). Ron sets out to infiltrate the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan by calling them and pretending to be a fellow White-Supremacist. Ron convinces his Jewish coworker, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), to act as him in order to meet the Ku Klux Klan members in person and the story continues.
Perhaps the most haunting moment of the movie came as the film closes with footage from 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The climax of the film comes when the audience is presented with footage of counter-protesters being rammed by a White-Supremacist in his car. The sheer brutality of this moment had most audience members in the theater, in tears. The most depressing element of the footage seemed to be how familiar everything was with acts the Klan committed throughout both the plot of the movie and in real life. For some audience members, it was a wake-up call as their optimistic view of race relation in America was shattered. I believe that twenty years down the road, this movie will be looked at in history classes for its raw and authentic portrayal of race in America in 2010.
However, the film’s impact on its audience and the masses is not the only thing worth praising. Many films tend to be appreciated by the average audience, but not many satisfy both the general population and are hailed by critics quite like how BlacKkKlansman does. Most critics praise the movie for it breaking the boundaries of the average fact-based films. The conventional approach to biographical movies is a gritty color pallet with realistic handheld shots. Spike Lee, however, employs a very bold and contrasting color pallet with very smooth camera movements to remind the audience that they are watching a movie. Lee has used this style throughout his career, but in BlacKkKlansman, his style has a much larger purpose than looking aesthetically pleasing. When a film is portraying the horrors of racism, it is hard for audiences to look past the brutality of it all. As a result, it takes their focus away from the message of the film. However with Lee’s style, the movie is easier for audiences to watch and succeeds in getting audiences to confront racism, not to run away from it.
Still, there are some minor errors with the film. Due to the fact that the film is based on a true story, the ending is not quite as exciting as the events prior to it. Also, because of the dark subject matter of the movie, the tone is occasionally inconsistent. The movie feels a little disjointed as there is a lack of build-up to more somber scenes of the film. However, this might be a necessary compromise as a more somber buildup would have led to a much darker movie and defeats the purpose of the film. The movie was not made to disturb its audience, but it was made to get them to think about the issues illustrated throughout the plot.
The film is nevertheless a true masterpiece as it illustrates a very doleful, true story without making the audiences feel too dim and hopeless. BlacKkKlansman current has a rating of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes as well as 7.9/10 on IMDb.