REVIEW: BlacKkKlansman is a Disturbing Yet Necessary Wake-Up Call
If you go into BlacKkKlansman expecting a feel-good, action-packed summer film, then I'm afraid you walked into the wrong theatre. BlacKkKlansman, in reality, is a political dark-comedy that uses its historical roots and its source material to create a beautiful work of art. The story of BlacKkKlansman is based upon the real Ron Stallworth and his very-real investigation into the Ku-Klux-Klan. Stallworth made contact with the Grand Master Wizard of the Ku-Klux-Klan David Duke (played by Topher Grace) and worked his way into the clan, gaining the trust of its members. In the film adaptation of the novel, Ron Stallworth is played by John David Washington, who does a marvelous job of balancing those comedic moments and the moments where the irony stops and reality starts to sink in. The film sets up its task, aiming to shake the very core of its audience's being. I'm here to say, it succeeded.
With Ron contacting the Klan on the phone, it's up to Flip Zimmerman (played by Adam Driver) to pose as Ron at these meetings and gain the trust of the Klan's members. The dynamic of this double-life is ultimately thrilling. Flip is Jewish, making his life also in jeopardy if he were to get caught. As Ron makes his way up the ranks, Flip must come to terms with the fact that it's not just African-Americans that the Klan is targeting, it's his identity as a Jew as well. As Ron says: "Why can't you realize that you've got skin in the game too?". It's the realization that the Klan poses as a non-violent "organization" when in reality, that violence is their very core.
Throughout the film, Ron struggles with his own identity. Early on in the film, he meets the President of the Colorado College Black Student Union, a young woman named Patricia (played by Laura Harrier). As these two develop a relationship, Patricia questions whether or not Ron is supporting the right cause. Ron reassures her, without revealing his true identity as an undercover cop, that he is doing his part by undermining white supremacy from within. Patricia begs the philosophical question: "Can you really tear down the walls from the inside?" This is the debate that Ron must confront if he truly wants to bring an end to a war without an end in sight.
The theme of BlacKkKlansman is the realization of America's true identity. As a country born out of white supremacy, have we really changed over the years into a better, more accepting society? The answer isn't always as clear as it seems. As the film shows, America says that the racism of the Civil Rights era is behind us, yet the ideals that white supremacists held during that time are still very much present. As the film ends, it switches from re-calling the past to the brutal reality of present-day America. Lee uses videos recorded during the 2017 Charlottesville White Nationalists March to present the reality that the film the audience just saw, is not very different from the world right outside the theater doors. It's a very troubling and brutal wake-up call that is sure to bring reality to the attention of the people. David Duke is not just a character in BlacKkKlansman, he is a real person, a real National Director of the Ku-Klux-Klan that supports Donald Trump. This scene only links back to a disturbing conversation between Ron and his sergeant. The sergeant tells Ron that David Duke plans on becoming a politician, and maybe one day, run for office. Ron laughs and says in reply: "Now why would America let that happen?"
BlacKkKlansman is a much-needed and hopefully moving wake-up call to Americans who still believe that racism is not present in America. Spike Lee proves that he hits hard with brilliant, yet brutal humor that rides the line between comedy and reality. As I sat in my seat, laughing at the script's punchlines, I couldn't help but think about how real all of this felt. The truth that police brutality exists, racism is still very much a problem and that there are millions of Americans out there are who are pleading for help. Millions of Americans begging for help, as society turns a blind eye.