Elliott’s review published on Letterboxd:
Brisk and entertaining but not as malicious as I may have anticipated. As is the case with most directors with a very strict agenda Spike Lee is quite the divisive figure and I honestly expected a more aggressive and irked tackling of the subject matter at hand in lieu of a more crowd-pleasing and accessible affair. That being said, Blackklansman is far from a bad movie-and far from politically agnostic.
Lee and his three co-writers buy and large structure the film like a more traditionalist buddy cop movie, perhaps more in line with Lee’s overtly commercial 2000s work, yet once our characters infiltrate the titular “organisation” political commentary inevitably seeps into the narrative in ways both subtle and obvious. Whether its our characters simply discussing the merits of racial liberation or the some incredibly discreet pieces of dialogue, Lee manages to pack it in there and its to good effect. It provides the movie with the energy lacking from the somewhat aimless plot which, once the gimmick of a black man joining the KKK wares off, doesn’t seem to have any direction to it. However, what I said earlier about the movie not feeling as belligerent towards such an evil organisation as the KKK still rings true for me as the script paints our clan members to be a tad too animated to carry any main threat- perhaps why the ending of real-life white supremacist footage feels so jarringly dark and harrowing.
Chayse Irvin used 35mm film and a vintage lens to shoot the movie and it’s extremely visible in the daylight scenes, giving the movie a gorgeously grainy and vibrant aesthetic that evokes the 70s exploitation our romantic leads reference in a particular scene, as does the much-maligned split-screen technique used to emphasise comedy more than anything here. It gives off the kind of exuberant look that echoes Lee’s earlier, most definitive, films and makes it distinct from other timely, racially significant films coming out these past few years.
Blackklansman is far from top tier film-making and is somewhat lacking in terms of making a definitive statement and it does get muddled from time to time but it certainly has its charm and I would recommend it as a fun, funny and swift watch.