This film follows the story of a black man infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan. If I told you it was based on truth, would you believe me?
Ron Stallworth – played by John David Washington – is a cop. But he’s an unusual cop, in that he’s a black cop in the 70s. When he goes undercover to hear Kwame Ture speak to a group of black college students, he unexpectedly finds himself joining in the chants and cheers. He then finds an advert for the KKK in a newspaper, and decides to give them a ring, pretending to be a white man wanting to join.
The leader gets taken in by him quickly, and this is where Flip Zimmerman – played by Adam Driver – comes in, pretending to be the white Ron in person. But not all members are so convinced, with one in particular Felix Kenderickson – played by Jasper Paakkonen – wanting Ron to engage in a lie detector test and prove himself. Even when this doesn’t give him the answer he wants, he carries on with his witch hunt right until the end.
John David plays Ron perfectly. You follow his journey while rooting for him. Only black people that have experienced the same oppression he deals with every day will truly understand. But it offers such a great representation that as a white person, you can’t not get angry at the hate he is subjected to. Having said that, racism doesn’t dictate who he is. He’s a strong, funny, enthralling character that you enjoy watching. He is a brilliant lead actor playing a brilliant main character.
Something that shines throughout this film, is the inclusion of strong, independent black women. Patrice Dumas – played by Laura Harrier – in particular plays her role incredibly well. She stands up for what she believes in. When Ron asks her if they can talk about something other than politics for once, she simply states that what’s happening is too important to put to bed for an hour. The war against racism takes over her life, but she never fights against that. She stays true to her cause, even when faced with threats of terror.
“Something that shines throughout this film, is the inclusion of strong, independent black women.”
Although Flip Zimmerman is a white man, he embarks on his own journey, coming to terms with being a Jewish man – something he’s never truly accepted. This is largely due to the racism he experiences from the KKK, and gives him the push he needs to keep moving forward with the investigation. It also serves as a reminder that although the black community faces the most hideous terror from the Klan, any race other than white people do as well. There are more victims in this white supremacy movement than we sometimes realise.
Director Spike Lee is quite simply a genius in the film industry. He manages to find the perfect balance in Blackkklansman between taking the piss out of the KKK and expressing just how evil they are. In one moment, you’re laughing at their ludicrious logic, the next scene you’re wincing at how many times they used the N-word in one sentence. But it never feels too much. It doesn’t feel as though he’s pushed the boundaries too far, in fact it feels like a fairly realistic telling of an organisation built on racism, hate, and terror. It’s also highlighted that the KKK doesn’t exist for white men only. White women are involved too, and they’re just as vile. White men are often depicted as the villains in stories such as this, but it’s false to assume women are above this behaviour and these hateful opinions. They are not.
The ending takes us to real life, and proves that in many ways, we haven’t moved on. Racism existed then, and it exists today. This isn’t the first film based around the oppression of black people, and it certainly won’t be the last. But one thing is for sure, it’s one of the best.