BlacKkKlansman is an interesting movie to review.
First of all, this is easily Spike Lee’s best movie he has directed in many years — possibly since Inside Man — and much of the reason is that this movie seemed to ignite something inside him.
Jordan Peele (Get Out) is the one who discovered the work and brought it to Lee to consider. Based on the 2014 novel Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth, the story is about the first African American police officer in Colorado Springs.
Stallworth started out in the records department, seeing the racism directed towards him by other police officers. However, in the world of this movie, the non-racist cops outnumber the bad ones by a large number.
That allowed Stallworth to earn a transfer to the intelligence division where he convinces them to start to run surveillance on the local Ku Klux Klan chapter. Stallworth instigates it by calling the chapter and asking about membership and then he recruits a non-practicing Jewish police officer named Zimmerman to pretend to be Ron Stallworth and infiltrate the Klan.
Soon, they learn that some members of the KKK are planning a violent attack on the black student union of the local college, and that coincides with the arrival of David Duke — the former Grand Wizard — for a visit.
There are some very strong points when it comes to this movie. First and foremost are the depictions of the black leaders — from the former member of the Black Panthers Kwame Ture to an older man named Jerome Turner, who tells a story about watching a close friend lynched after accusations against him by a local white girl.
Even at the end, when everything is wrapped up nicely, Ron Washington gets a knock on his door and looks out to see the KKK burning a cross in anger against him.
However, the fact that everything is wrapped up nicely seems like something that this movie did not deserve. The good guys won and the bad guys lost, and even the only racist cop that got screen time got what was coming to him.
When Ron’s girlfriend Connie still says that the police are the enemy, it is hard to get on her side because Spike Lee makes them out to be the heroes of this story — and not even hiding the fact that the bust happened makes them look bad after the story of the film.
Honestly, the KKK was made out to be ignorant rednecks outside of one or two, and even David Duke, who became a state representative in Louisiana was made to look like a goof.
There is no Radio Raheem in this movie and the fact that everything has a nice bow placed on it makes it hard to get behind the fact that there was anything to fear in the movie at all.
There is also a seemingly haphazard way where Spike Lee ignores a lot in order to just focus on the idea of tying this into President Trump’s tenure in the White House.
While Zimmerman (played brilliantly by Adam Driver) is hugely important to the story and showed a sense of regret for always hiding his Jewish roots earlier in the movie, once the KKK attack starts, Lee no longer seemed to care about his story at all and lost all interest in him at that point.
Despite that, the scenes at the end with Charlottesville were still strong, showing that this happy ending was no ending at all and things are still garbage in the United States when it comes to racism and equality. The scenes with Gone with the Wind and Birth of a Nation shows this is also nothing new.
Birth of a Nation especially is a black eye on cinema — considered one of the best movies of its era to be made. It is a movie beloved by the KKK and a movie that makes the Klan the heroes. When President Woodrow Wilson showed it in the White House, praising it, that was parallelled with the fact that Wilson fired all African American civil servants because he did not believe that whites should ever serve under black people.
He was the U.S. President. Things haven’t changed that much in America, according to BlacKkKlansman.
Now, there have been some complaints about BlacKkKlansman — specifically from filmmaker Boots Riley, who directed Sorry to Bother You. Despite being a huge fan of Spike Lee, and saying that Lee is why he became a filmmaker, Riley pointed out a lot of discrepancies between the movie and the real-life events it depicted.
Spike Lee added a lot of scenes which slammed home the fact that the police are not evil at heart — but the fact that he glossed over the fact that this story was not as black and white as depicted. The police, in the real story, was not the knights in shining armor taking down the knights in the white cloaks.
Riley also pointed out that Stallworth was almost a double-agent himself — also sabotaging the world of Black radical organizations as well as the KKK and even working with an FBI that allegedly allowed the assassination of outspoken black leaders.
The fact that Spike Lee was paid a large amount of money by the New York police department to help them strengthen their image is a black eye when looking at these truths.
With that in mind, it makes it slightly harder to enjoy the movie for what it is.
However, the movie when taken on its own is powerful filmmaking. It is clear that Spike Lee had something to say about today’s political climate. The montages at the end showing the incidents in Charlottesville and the comments by President Trump were not just added to be inflammatory.
These scenes were clearly added to show that — while the events of BlacKkKlansman took place in 1972, the same problems that affected them are still taking place over 30 years later.