BlacKkKlansman - A difficult film to watch but necessary.
Spike Lee has crafted a film that is both difficult to watch, in particular the last 30 minutes but yet is necessary and vital. It is not often that when the end credits of a film begin to roll, that there is silence in the auditorium. Indeed the last time I can recall stunned silence was at the end of Schindler's List.
Director Spike Lee's drama was produced by the team behind one of my favourite films of last year, Get Out and offers another provocative exploration of American race relations. In the midst of the 1970s civil rights movement, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) becomes the first black detective on the Colorado Springs Police Department. He sets out to prove his worth by infiltrating the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan and convinces his Jewish colleague (Adam Driver) to go undercover as a white supremacist. Lee bookends the film by bringing the debate right up to date with last year's Charlottesville riots and Trump's refusal to condemn Nazis. It is a stark reminder that the United States is still a racially divided country with the divisions very visible and promoted by the current White House incumbent.
It's a political film and yet there is time for humour. The scene with Washington coaching Driver while Michael Buscemi watches is perfectly scripted and timed. Indeed the sight of policemen laughing while Washington winds up David Duke, the Grand Wizard of the KKK on the phone are laugh out loud funny. For me it is gallows humour, the serious undertone remains.
John David Washington excels in the lead role. Adam Driver turns in what is arguably his best role to date. Ryan Eggold is terrific as the local boss of the KKK, and the Finnish Jasper Pääkkönen impresses as his right hand man. The biggest surprise of all is Topher Grace, who is near-ingenious as David Duke, a well-mannered bag of sleaze in a three-piece. Watch out too for Alec Baldwin in the opening segment filming some propaganda for the KKK.
As with all Lee's films it is of our time and deeply relevant. He has created an almost unimaginably uneven career in films, but it has never been in doubt, that he is one of the most talented American filmmakers of his generation. Should you have forgotten that, now you can remind yourself by watching the amazing "BlacKkKlansman", which won the Grand Prix at Cannes in May.