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Spike Lee & Jordan Peele's "BlacKkKlansman" Movie Review

How does a black man in the 1970s infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan? How Sway?! This seems downright impossible. Well, Spike Lee’s newest joint, BlacKkKlansman, tells the miraculous true story of Ron Stallworth, who did just that. While people initially thought this film was a spawn of the now infamous Dave Chappelle sketch of a black man named Clayton Bigsby who was unaware of his Black skin and joined the KKK, this story comes from actual events. Producer, Jordan Peele, most notably known as the creator of the critically acclaimed Get Out film, sought Lee to direct this unbelievable story.
In true Spike Lee fashion, the film opens with Alec Baldwin playing a white supremacist filming a propaganda piece. The language and imagery associated with it are jarring and sets the tone for the multi-layered nuanced film that has a run time of just over two hours.
We are quickly introduced to Ron Stallworth played by John David Washington. Washington began being noticed for his recurring role on HBO’s Ballers. Hailing from Hollywood royalty as the son of Pauletta and Denzel Washington, his portrayal of Stallworth solidifies his ability to stand on his talent and skill alone, and not needing to ride the coattails of his family name. Washington carries the film with the poise and strength of a film veteran, although this film is his first as leading man. Undeniable heredity traits of Denzel are noticeable in certain voice inflections and movements, but it does not take away from Washington’s portrayal of Stallworth. Rather, it adds a sense of depth and nostalgia for fans of both Denzel and Lee, to realize the kismet moment to have Lee direct Denzel’s son in such a powerful leading role as he did for his father in several Spike Lee joints.
Ron Stallworth is the first Black detective for the Colorado Springs Police Department. While navigating those treacherous waters, he successfully manages to make contact with the Ku Klux Klan, all the way up to the national level. He forms a friendship with David Duke, who at the time was serving as the National Director of the KKK. Duke is obviously unaware of Stallworth’s ethnicity, which provides some of the most comical and ironic moments in the film.
With the help of his team, Stallworth is able to lead a successful undercover operation that reduces the number of hate crimes in Colorado Springs along with revealing the identity of national and federal employees who were members of the KKK. Of course, not everyone was pleased with Stallworth’s achievements. Huge victories are short-lived, but he finds a way to triumph over those looking to suppress his story. Clearly, it worked because this film was made and opened with over 12 million in box office sales during its first week of release, which exceeded the projected numbers for the film.
Noteworthy performances are also given by Laura Harrier, who plays Patrice, president of the Black Student Union and love interest to Stallworth, and Corey Hawkins as Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture). Harry Belafonte gives a riveting and unforgettable performance as he recounts the true story behind a well-known photo of a lynching from 1916.
There are moments in the film that are down-right hilarious, along with moments that are heart-wrenching, thought-provoking, and tear-jerking. A good artist is able to weave through these emotions in a masterful way, and Lee achieves that. Even the subtilties are poignant as the film touches on overarching themes of double consciousness, dueling ideologies, police brutality, abuse of power, and Black pride. “What I like to do with my films is show repercussions of the decisions that people make,” Lee explained to Trevor Noah on The Daily Show while promoting the film. This tactic is every present in BlacKkKlansman, as each character’s actions affect not only themselves but their community and the racial climate that we find ourselves in today. Lee ends the film in a sort of butterfly effect way by highlighting how previous actions are affecting us in the present day. Moreover, we are eerily reminiscent of repeating past behaviors.
Even with its initial success and accolades by being awarded the Grand Prix Award at the 2018 Festival de Cannes, and holding a solid 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, not everyone is a fan of the film. The film has been criticized for not being factually sound, along with having a subliminal agenda of trying to portray police officers in a more favorable way in light of the Black Lives Matter movement. However, if nothing else, BlacKkKlansmanis a think piece and conversation starter. And, it gets a 4 out of 5 pieces ranking as a Letrece’s Pieces.
Be on the lookout for the next review coming next month!

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