I was trying to catch up on all of the Best Picture nominees I hadn’t seen yet, and with Roma out of the way, it was time to see if I could find BlacKkKlansman somewhere. Thankfully Amazon came through, though $6 seemed a bit high for a streaming rental. Still, I was able to watch it and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.
I had heard a lot of good things about the movie but in a way that made me a bit nervous. I was worried this was just going to be another critical darling that people were puffing up but ended up not being that great a film (The Favourite, I’m looking at you). Thankfully this wasn’t the case. It was a pretty well made film about an interesting story, with excellent performances.
I don’t know anything about the actual facts of the story the film is based on, other than that there was an African American detective that successfully integrated the Ku Klux Klan. I have heard that the depiction of events is fairly close to the truth. Considering that, the story itself is really impressive, and Spike Lee demonstrates his talent as a director in telling it in a straightforward, no-nonsense way. I do think some things are a bit heavy handed at times but generally I found the flow of the film smooth.
The film looks great, and as I mentioned the performances are wonderful. Obviously Adam Driver has gotten some awards attention, and it is well deserved. He has a couple of moving moments, especially the one where his character briefly discusses his Jewish heritage with his partner, and how this assignment has made him think about it differently. However, it is John David Washington as Ron Stallworth that I was most impressed by. He plays the detective as a cool, level-headed guy who kind of stumbles into this ridiculous series of events. I thought he had a strong presence on screen, and I appreciated that his performance wasn’t overstated.
I also thought there were some interesting parallels drawn between the student activist group and the Klan, thought whether or not they were intended is unclear. There just seemed to be some similar rhetoric about tolerance, or lack thereof. This is especially strong when Stallworth’s girlfriend flat out refuses to accept that as a police officer they can have a relationship moving forward. Her prejudice against the police can’t even be subdued by her boyfriend, or his views on the world. Intolerance can come in many forms, and Stallworth stands in the middle of all these groups trying to find a balance between frustration, anger, and progress.
In the end, BlackKkKlansman was a really satisfying viewing experience. I liked the film a lot, and thought it was well made. The performances were outstanding, the pacing was good, and the music was fitting. More than this, the film was an interesting commentary on race, tolerance, and prejudice.