BlacKkKlansman: Film Review
Based on the book by former Colorado Springs Detective Ron Stallsworth, BlacKkKlansman tells the bizarre true story of Ron Stallworth, a black detective who infiltrated one of America’s most violent and notorious hate groups – the Ku Klux Klan. Director Spike Lee comically brings life to this adaptation while mercilessly shedding light on the dark underbelly of American racism. He aims to remind viewers that although this story does takes place in the 1970s, ideologies of white supremacy continue their hateful crusade through the public consciousness during the contemporary Trump Era.
Lee pulls no punches in revealing the ugliness of institutionalized racism in the police force and the issue between good cops and bad cops. The story begins with Stallworth (John David Washington) joining the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) as the first black police officer on the force. He is initially assigned to the bottom of the evidence room, where officers request records of African Americans by referring to them as “toads” (a derogatory term for African Americans in the prison system).
Later in the film, Stallsworth’s partner tells a story of how one of their officers shot an innocent black youth. The officer claimed the kid was armed when in truth he wasn’t. Stallworth shows initiative by wanting to tell the chief but his partner reminds him, “we don’t tell on our own,” a blue code that lives in the hearts of some American police officers.
After moving up to detective, Stallworth notices a newspaper ad for the recruitment of the Colorado Springs Ku Klux Klan chapter. Over the phone, he convinces them that he is a "good-white-christian-man-who-hates-every-living-race-and-just-wants-to-make-America-great." The organization takes the bait. Stallworth and his partner Flip (Adam Driver) begin a sting operation on the KKK, having Stallworth communicate with the Klan by phone while Flip infiltrates the organization using Stallworth's name.
Through his work on BlackKkKlansman, Lee reveals social dilemmas in both modern society and the past. What is it to be black in America? What is it to be Jewish? And what is it to be a true American? What is astonishing is how they develop a relationship, over the phone, with National Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace). Duke has no idea that Stallworth is black and begins to take a huge liking to him.
In a powerful scene, Flip, who is of Jewish heritage, explains that he believes he wasn't raised Jewish. He realizes as he is speaking that he was, but never gave really much thought to his heritage, explaining, “Now I’m in room denying it. And all I can think of now are traditions.” Lee brutally shows the gruesome need for the organization’s campaign to “Make America Great Again” and visually catapults viewers to footage of the Charlottesville "Unite the Right Protest."
The film is poignant, provocative, and blunt, skillfully weaving a narrative that informs the viewer of past and present rhetoric used by police and hate groups like the KKK. It is the year’s must-watch film and a bolstering voice in the era of Donald Trump. This film will go down in Lee's legacy as one of his greatest achievements. As Lee mentioned in the beginning of the film “this sh** is fo' real, fo' real."