Some people may know director Spike Lee as the guy that sits courtside at every New York Knicks basketball game. Others may know him as the guy that hates Quentin Tarantino. But what people tend to forget is that he is a pioneer in the independent filmmaking scene. Oftentimes, his thought provoking films make us question our own beliefs in humanity. His new film, “Blackkklansman,” is no exception.
The hard-to-believe true story takes place in 1970’s Colorado Springs. There, we meet Ron Stallworth, played by rising star John David Washington, son of former Lee collaborator Denzel Washington. Stallworth becomes the first ever black cop to join the Colorado Springs Police Department, and takes on the ambitious and dangerous task of infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). He then goes undercover as a white man with the help of his partner, played by “Star Wars” actor Adam Driver.
The film itself is a brilliant and provocative piece that was long overdue for Lee. His previous film was the divisive and controversial satire “Chiraq,” which followed a group of women refusing to offer sex to their male companions, in order to stop the gun violence in the city of Chicago. After years of critical triumphs and failures, “Blackkklansman” is the first Spike Lee Joint Production since 1989’s “Do the Right Thing,” that has people talking again.
This film does not shy away from showing its relevance on its sleeve. While it may not have been the most subtle film of the year, the presence of the current Trump administration is very obvious and had a huge influence.
The film’s main villain David Duke, portrayed by “That 70’s Show” actor Topher Grace, is a white supremacist and former Grand Wizard of the KKK. He serves as a parallel to the president that is currently in office. In fact, Washington’s character even remarks in the film that, “America would never elect a racist like David Duke for president.”
Though the film takes place in the past, it could have easily been set in 2018, something that the filmmaker wants his audience to acknowledge.
“Blackkklansman” is equal parts hilarious and incredibly heartbreaking. This is one of the most well written scripts of the year and a solid contender for the upcoming Academy Awards. The acting is great and everyone in the ensemble gives it their all, especially Adam Driver in a career best. And John David Washington seemed to genetically take all his father’s talent with him.
What will really stick with the audience is the ending. Without a doubt the most hauntingly real film finale that you will ever see. Leaving you speechless and hanging onto your seat even when the credits are done rolling. An ending that slaps you back into the harsh reality we live in.
Let’s hope this is the new renaissance and revival for Mr. Spike Lee.