John David Washington stars as Ron Stallworth, Colorado Springs Police Department’s first African American police officer, who answers an advertisement in the newspaper looking to recruit new members for the KKK. After several phone conversations where he and local leaders exchange ideologies about white America, it is agreed that they should meet in person.
Enter Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), Stallworth’s partner, who must learn how to mimic Stallworth’s voice and speech patterns, go undercover, convincingly befriend members of the KKK and publicly deny his Jewish background.
This intricate, dangerous and daring story is told so masterfully by Lee; he intersperses moments of tension and urgency with humor, letting his audience in on the craziness while reminding us who the bad guy really is. Performances by Laura Harrier as Black Student Union President Patrice Dumas, Corey Hawkins as Black Panther leader Kwame Ture, Jasper Paakkonen as local KKK leader Felix Kendrickson and Topher Grace as then-grand wizard of the KKK, David Duke, round out a cast of characters who are determined to defend their side while bringing down the other.
Lee also shows us how timeless the film is. Audiences will see several characters repeating phrases and attitudes that have been uttered by today’s politicians and white supremacy supporters, especially about how they can make America… great again. By including footage of the 2017 riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, or alternating shots of a Klan meeting with those of a Black Student Union one, we are reminded that not much has changed regarding racial injustices in America. In the least, Lee has given us someone to root for in Stallworth, someone we’d be happy to see win over and over again.
“BlacKkKlansman” is an incredibly entertaining film. Spike Lee has handled a delicate subject poignantly, proving that racial injustices stemming from decades ago are still prevalent today. The film has generated lots of buzz, including a standing ovation for Lee at the Cannes Film Festival, and it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s included in Oscar contention for directing or screenplay.