During the 1970's Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) became the first black Police Officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Later he went on to become their first black Detective as well. Whilst assigned to the Intelligence Unit, Stallworth came across an ad in the paper for the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. What started as an attempt to acquire some "official literature" - with the help of fellow Detective, "Flip" Zimmerman (Adam Driver) - turned into a full blown undercover investigation into the Klan's activities, that reached all the way to the top of the organisation.
Based on Ron Stallworth's book Black Klansman, this is defintiely one of those "stranger than fiction" stories. The idea that a black guy infiltrated the KKK is as incredible as it is hilarious. And Spike Lee manages to strike the perfect balance between the two. BlacKkKlansman is an eye-opening look at how much our world has changed, and more importantly how much it hasn't. With a few little digs at Trump along the way of course. Unfortunately our society is rife with stupidity, ignorance and hatred, and as much as this story shows that - in all of its ugliness - it also demonstrates what we can achieve when we work together. Something that is aided by a host of brilliant performances.
John David Washington - who has clearly inherited his Dad's talent for the performing arts - is perfect as Stallworth, equally proud of being black and a cop, he's a man caught between two worlds. Adam Driver makes up the other half of this interesting partnership, Flip Zimmerman (not his real name) stood in for Stallworth during face-to-face meetings with Klan members. The two actors have excellent chemistry and their scenes together are easily some of the best in the movie. Laura Harrier gives a brilliant performance as Patrice Dumas, the very passionate and driven president of the Black Student Union. Dumas is a fictional character who according to Spike Lee is inspired by the women of the Black Power movement. I must also take my hat off to those with the unenviable task of playing Klan members, especially Jasper Pääkkönen, Ryan Eggold, Paul Walter Hauser, Ashlie Atkinson, Nicholas Turturro and Topher Grace. They did an incredible job of bringing these ignorant people to life without making them over-the-top, moustache twirling villains. After all they are just people, albeit racist, hate-filled shit heads, and that's how they are portrayed.
Beyond the obvious social and racial themes, BlacKkKlansman is also a fun and exciting police drama. The fact that this is based on a true story really ramps up the tension. Washington and Driver work so well together in fact, that at times it borders on a buddy cop movie. But it's the scenes involving Ron's phone conversations that are the most incredible, watching these people casually discuss their racist views is - I think - what makes it most shocking and at the same time oddly hilarious, given who they are (unknowingly) discussing them with. An odd combination I know, but the look on Ron's colleague's faces when they hear his first call to the local Klan leader is worth the price of admission alone...and don't get me started on those ridiculous white robes!
There aren't many movies that can shock and disgust you, whilst also making you piss yourself laughing, but BlacKkKlansman is one of them and Spike Lee does it in style. Despite an Argo style heavily fictionalised ending, the compelling story and brilliant performances make this both an incredible piece of entertainment and a major wake-up call. For as much as we think our world has improved, it really hasn't. This is rammed home by the end credits, which shows the 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and harrowing footage of the despicable car attack on those protesting it.
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