CAPSULE: This film tells the story, based on actual events, of two undercover policemen--one black, one white but Jewish--who worked together to compose a single undercover agent to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. Spike Lee gives us an ambitious comedy/drama/ thriller that reflects the history of American anti-black racism. It covers historic incidents from THE BIRTH OF A NATION up through the Charlottesville killing. Director: Spike Lee. W riters: Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10
BLACKKKLANSMAN has a good film thriller at its core but one almost has the feeling that pieces were glued onto the script and then their contributions seem appended to the script. Alec Baldwin contributes a humorous impression of a white supremacist bigot that would not have been misplaced as a "Saturday Night Live" sketch. Harry Belafonte gives us a short history of D. W. Griffith's film THE BIRTH OF A NATION. Spike Lee grafts these pieces as if Lee is saying "... and while I have your attention..."
BLACKKKLANSMAN is primarily the story of Ron Stallworth played by African-American John David Washington. He had a longstanding ambition to be a policeman. But instead, when he finally is on the force he gets the unfulfilling job of filing and unfiling in the archive room. He finally gets himself the more meaningful task of investigating the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado Springs. To get information on the local chapter of the KKK he phones the chapter directly. He gets some info, but not nearly enough. He is told he can get more info if he visits them in person. They will not cooperate if they know he is black so he gets another policeman, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), to mimic his voice and to pretend to be him. This begins a long relationship in which Flip impersonates Ron if he is going to be seen and on the phone Ron talks in his own voice.
Organizing the plan takes time and the film has a slow start, but once it gets going the story is fascinating. The script is a combined effort of Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, and Spike Lee. At times the script is not subtle and there are many obvious unsubtle parallels to more recent history. As the film goes on it increases its speed and tension. However some of the excitement towards the end of the film is invented rather than reported. The character Connie, who is the wife of a Klansman, is abused and bullied. She was apparently invented for the film and is present to make the point that if the Klan starts by abusing blacks they will eventually turn on their own kind.
Adam Driver plays the role of Flip Zimmerman. Driver's acting career came as something of a surprise for me. I guess I saw that Driver was to have the role of Kylo Ren, "Star Wars"'s new continuing villain. He seems for the new series the equivalent of Darth Vader. Driver has a face like a worn tennis shoe. Nobody with a face like that gets very far in the movies. I thought. Well, maybe Humphrey Bogart. I guess there is also Eli Wallach. And there is Danny Trejo. But Driver has an unusual face and that may in the long run be a big asset for him. He is not used as well as he might have been. But he has a certain charisma.
Spike Lee has given a face to the Ku Klux Klan, the real Klan behind the regalia. In years to come when people picture the real Ku Klux Klan they will picture images from this film. I rate BLACKKKLANSMAN +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 9/10.
Film Credits: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7349662/referencek
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/blackkklansman/
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2018 Mark R. Leeper