Foggy’s review published on Letterboxd:
After being largely working outside of Hollywood for the majority of the current decade, Spike Lee returns with a new strike at mainstream filmmaking, and he wants it to be known that he’s mad as hell.
I know there’s a saying going around that every film should be made as if it was your last, and BlacKkKlansman arrives with a massive bellowing scream in the face of American history with bigotry and hatred. Marketing will have to believe that this is a jovial period piece poking fun at the Klan, using a larger-than-life true story to ensure you that the current adversary we see reported on a daily basis has been overcome before, but BlacKkKlansman is no such film.
There’s often stuff in the film that I found genuinely stomach-churning, as Undercover Detectives Ron Stallworth and Flip Zimmerman (played by John David Washington and Adam Driver respectfully) infiltrate the Klan and find how flippant and engrained such racism is. This isn’t dark cellars and middle of nowhere met ups, but around the pool table at the local bar, or even next door in suburbia. The film opens up with you having to confront hateful propaganda from the offset and constantly reminding you of the effects media can employ when distributed tactile.
But perhaps the most telling scene is a small one only about 45 minutes in. Stallworth is talking to the head of his division about the idea of such ideologies reaching the Politics, it’s a scene that feels overtly winking in nature towards the current political landscape, with Stallworth laughing it off like the audience laughing at how apparent it is, yet the scene continues on to take a more forboding warning. Almost as if Lee is angry that everyone, himself included, grew so complicit as to let this happen, and probably happen again and again and again like the annuals of history. Concluding with an urgent and alarming epilogue that I won’t spoil, but it’s worth mentioning a handful of audience members where left weeping uncontrollably at it’s final moments.
Of course, none of this would hold enough on screen if the film around it wasn’t as strong. The film works as a compelling enough thriller, with well constructed moments of tension relying on a strong script, and whilst it’s a deceptively heavy film, the levity that has been advertised isn’t unfounded. But the real reason BlacKkKlansman works is because at it’s core it’s a film about identity, a constant thread of duality and hiding your true self is really flowing through the film, more importantly than it’s current events. Spike Lee concerns himself with the identity of the people involved, and finds how they are having to conform to their environment, trying to urge them to find the freedom. And I believe through that the film manages to find focus whilst manoeuvring with some lofty material and ultimate ambitions.
I think if the film faulters, the climax of the main story feels hastily put together and presented on screen in a way that lacks real weight, with the conclusion bringing the arcs to a slightly false close (mainly because Lee himself isn’t convinced that this is all for them). But obviously the film’s final moments left a wave of silence over everyone in that cinema, and you could tell a real impact was left.
BlacKkKlansman is deeply affecting, and real shot of passion, anger and urgency that Hollywood seems to be peddling but not supporting and distributing, at least not internationally. And it’s the first film this year that I felt worthy of Award recognition.