BlacKkKlansman is based on the incredible true story of the first black police officer in the Colorado Springs police department. In 1979, Detective Ron Stallworth responded to a newspaper ad that was a local recruitment drive for the Ku Klux Klan. Amazingly, he creates a bond over the phone, which leads to him making connections with the Grand Wizard David Duke and infiltrating the Klan. However, as a black detective, it would be impossible for him to meet in person. So a white detective ‘Chuck' poses as Ron to investigate the Klan in person, while Ron still communicates with them over the phone. Stallworth published his story in the bestselling book Black Klansman in 2014 which the movie BlacKkKlansman is based on.
Now, it's fair to say that the cultural issues created through extreme racial hatred and white supremacy are still culturally-relevant today. In fact, the timing for the story of BlacKkKlansman could not have been better. This certainly was the thoughts of screenwriters, Charlie Wachtel and David Rabinowitz when they came across the book in 2015. They immediately interviewed Ron Stallworth and drew up the first draught of the script for BlacKkKlansman and pitched the film to a number of production houses. One of those included Jordan Peele's Monkeyhouse productions. Jordan famously approached the outstanding Spike Lee with the project and he signed up as the director.
It's fair to say that Spike Lee has forged a career from creating some of the most powerful race-related movies ever made. So, BlacKkKlansman is, without doubt, the perfect fit. But, for me, BlacKkKlansman is his bravest and best work so far. Lee creates a film that is as funny as it is shocking in only the way that he can. Incredibly, BlacKkKlansman is possibly the most racist film that you could ever see. However, this is purely due to the way that Lee bravely exposes the outrageous actions of white extremism. Lee manages to blend in the humor seamlessly with the absurdity of racism. Even the white detective, Philip Zimmerman, who works with Ron Stallworth to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan is Jewish. Presenting another side to the story, which forces home the base issue alarmingly well.
However, it's not just the Oscar-winning screenplay, the incredible score, and direction that makes this film so special. Because it has to be said, the casting is just outstanding. John David Washington does an amazing job in the lead role as Ron Stallworth. He completely owns this role with ease and clearly displays as much poise and skill as his dad Denzel Washington. The whole supporting cast is incredible too. Robert John Burke is great as Chief Bridges. Laura Harrier is excellent as Patrice the President of the Black Student Union. But some of the best performances come from the actors playing the local Ku Klux Klan members. Jasper Pääkkönen gives a scarily realistic portrayal of his character. The last time I saw this guy was in Vikings and he is totally unrecognizable here. Ryan Eggold and Paul Walter Hauser are both brilliant and Topher Grace as David Duke is uncanny, he looks just like the guy.
However, the real standout for me comes from Adam Driver. Cast as Philip ‘Flip' Zimmerman, it's clear that Spike Lee wanted to make the Flip character as important as the lead. But, Adam Driver really steals the show. Many of the scenes that his character finds himself in are some of the most complex scenes in the whole film. So it's no surprise that Adam Driver was nominated for a plethora of awards as Best Supporting Actor.
Ok, it's worth noting that BlacKkKlansman is quite horrific and brutally effective in its delivery. Spike Lee never shies away from making his points made and this applies even more here. The opening scene really rams home the absurdities that are about to follow and Lee chooses to cement the past with the future in the final scenes. We are hit with the horrific events that took place in the Charlottesville riots and the response from President Trump. This has a disturbing effect but is essential in the film's relevance to today's times.
All in all, BlacKkKlansman is an outstanding and essential piece of film making that everyone should experience. There is a huge amount to learn and take away from this movie and yet is entertaining too. Strongly recommended and new to Netflix in July 2020.