Director: Spike Lee.
It feels like ages since I’ve seen a Spike Lee joint and looking at it, it actually has been ages! Ages since I’ve seen Lee in his usual habitat of addressing political climates such as this one. One might think that the subject matter here was written by Lee himself but instead it’s the prefect story for Lee to make a film about and there’s a simple reason as to why this hasn’t happened sooner.
The film is based on a Ron Stallworth’s book called Black Klansman, a memoir of his time as a police detective and his infiltration into the Ku Klux Klan; and yes, it’s an incredible true story that happened in 1979’s Colorado Springs, CO. Though for reasons that might appear in the film, Stallworth’s book wasn’t published until 2014, hence to why this film is being made now and Lee takes full advantage of using this material to string it to the national cultural issues America are facing today. You could say this to be an origin story of American’s political climate, and it’s portrayed in such brilliant fashion.
We follow the Ron Stallworth, a proud afro-donning, African-American who enlists with the Colorado Springs Police Department and successfully infiltrates the KKK. True story. It’s a great story that provides some unbelievable comedy, but it’s far too important and shocking to be an outright hilarious. This is no laughing matter people, but you will at times.
This story is perfect for Lee, whose subject matter it often considered controversial, challenging and thought provoking. It’s tongue-in-cheek, outrageously offensive but totally within context and carries substance. It obviously focuses on one of Lee’s frequent issues of colorism, tackling incredibly important and very real issues; it actually comes in at all angles and addresses more than just the racial discrimination that was happening, is happening within the communities and the police force.
Washington is superb and brings a lot to the character of Stallworth, a proud and confident man on a mission to prove not just his worth, but to bring change. The supporting cast do great, with Driver in the passenger seat. But it’s Grace and Pääkkönen that do the best against Washington. Grace playing the real life American white nationalist and former Grand Wizard of the KKK, David Duke; and Pääkkönen playing a paranoid, radical lieutenant of the klan.
The script is sharp, abrasive and brilliant; and coupled with Lee’s shooting style, the film has some real heart and packs a punch. But not where you might expect. If you’re familiar with Lee’s films, you’ll expect oddly spliced scenes which might include references and real shocking footage. And yes, there’s his signature dolly shot.
The production was on point, and Lee’s decision to film in celluloid as oppose to digital really works. The wardrobe is spectacular and really focuses on the time, and goddamn I love that afro! Lee’s regular composer Terence Blanchard does a good score creating a recognisable seventies theme throughout that’s filled with soul.
Going back to Lee taking advantage; yes, it’s a true story but like all films claiming to be true, there’s always some tweaks and adjustments; and for Lee’s normal motive, it’s more for impact over dramatisation. Some elements might be questionable but it all serves the greater purpose of what Lee is trying to achieve. You could say it’s more of a political statement dressed up as a film.
The year set is shifted slightly so to incorporate other relating material, there’s fabrications in the script and there’s a harrowing recounting from Harry Belafonte’s character juxtaposed against an eminent threat. But the core of the story is very much there and it’s going to blatantly upset opposing key people directly connected to this story, this is what makes the film unbelievably funny.
It’s very political without it being overwhelming or forceful. And it doesn’t shy away from giving a balanced view of the intentions of both sides of the battle, which makes Stallworth a man very much in the middle; of everything. There’s a target audience here, a film for the people that has some direct hits to the current situation in America today. Though shocking and insightful it sadly lacked tension, but I left the screen speechless, gut-punched and amazed all at the same time.
Running Time: 8
The Cast: 8
Job Description: 8
The Extra Bonus Point: 0
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