Director: Spike Lee
Starring: John David Washington, Laura Harrier, Adam Driver, Topher Grace
Words: Josh Senior
Spike Lee seems like the only director that could have come to the mind of producer Jordan Peele when he set about the task of adapting Ron Stallworth’s manuscript Black Klansman for the big screen. The cinematic serendipity of the subject matter and the current political climate in the United States of America, makes this film the perfect firebrand for a troubled period in modern history.
Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is made the first African American member of the Colorado Springs Police Department and immediately sets his sights on tackling crime, however he is initially stuck on desk duty, his hiring a seemingly political move from those above him. He still has to endure all the prejudice he has lived with throughout his life and he feels stuck. That is until he is asked to go undercover at a student Black Power rally, where he meets the vivacious Patrice (Laura Harrier), and the fires of uprising begin to burn within him.
He turns the investigation on its head and makes contact with the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, impersonating a white racist via the telephone and recruiting Jewish detective Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to attend meetings on his behalf, in order to gain information about the group’s activities. Events snowball out of control and Ron/Flip between them become a popular member of the chapter attracting the interest of Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace), who’s arrival in Colardo Springs accelerates white hatred towards the African American contingent of the town and pushes Ron to his mental and moral limits.
Spike Lee puts an obvious spin on the tale of Ron Stallworth (who was by no means a clear cut moral figure of justice), however his storytelling here is perfect. BlacKkKlansman is very much (without irony) a black comedy in terms of genre, the film is fresh and fun but is also never far away from reminding us of the horrors of American society, neatly linking the events onscreen back to events of the present day. The film neither forgets its roots, nor forgets what it is trying to preach to its audience. Washington and Harrier both shine in their first major roles, and the supporting cast of actors including Adam Driver and a revelatory Topher Grace (last seen in anything of note, in Spiderman 3) give Lee’s film a professional sheen. A real high-point in Lee’s filmography which tackles its subject matter with charm and a knowing eye.