‘BlacKkKlansman’ tells modern world story through 70’s lens

Detectives Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) and Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) prepare for the investigation of Ku Klux Klan. Photo from www.focusfeatures.com/ blackkklansman

Director Spike Lee tells the bizarre, true story of eager rookie Ron Stallworth, played by John David Washington, the first black officer to join the Colorado Springs police department.

Based on the book “Black Klansman: Race, Hate and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime,” written by real American police officer Ron Stallworth, the film shows the beginning of Stallworth’s career as an undercover detective. Set in a town where racial tension is at its peak, he responds to an ad in the local newspaper for the Ku Klux Klan, a “secret society” propagating hate towards anyone who doesn’t fall under the descriptor “Aryan.”

His phone call is returned and an elaborate plan is hatched to investigate the hate group from the inside using Stallworth’s identity. Phone calls between the department and the KKK would be handled by Stallworth himself and in-person meetings would feature white undercover detective Flip Zimmerman, played by Adam Driver.

The movie follows Zimmerman as he becomes uncomfortably intimate with the Klan, attending a variety of get togethers. Things truly take a turn when Stallworth gets in contact and creates a weirdly close connection with the current “Grand Wizard” of the KKK, David Duke, played by Topher Grace.

The two-hour-and-15-minute movie pushes the audience dangerously close to the edge of their seats. The plot moves like a rolling snowball; it starts off in the records office and ends in an explosion. The whole thing is littered with intense moments of loud, rageful hate and silent moments of “Will they find out?” Viewers will leave the theater no longer needing to clip their nails. It’s classified as a crime drama, though there are comedic elements tangled up within it. Some of the best moments are the phone calls between Stallworth and Duke. The irony of the entire operation will definitely provide a laugh or two.

The film was produced by Jordan Peele, half of the “Key & Peele” comedy duo and the writer/director of 2017’s racially fueled thriller hit “Get Out.” All of the acting choices made the feature length experience very distinct. The banter scenes between police officers are charming and uplifting. They pull the audience back from lurid displays of hate every time the movie refocuses on the Klan. The performance given by all of the cast is amazing and makes it hard to differ between actor and character. Every character is fully formed and each line builds off of the last.

While it’s set in the 1970s, the true agenda of the film is quite apparent. The viewer watches, thinks and realizes how this story of organized racism is parallel to today’s world. With the anniversary of the Charlottesville KKK rally, where protestor Heather Heyer lost her life, being Aug. 10, there was no better time for this movie to be released than just two days before it. Scenes reference modern events and politics. In one scene, the Klan can be heard chanting “America first!” a motto of theirs, as well, as an often repeated catchphrase of the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump.

“BlacKkKlansman” is an incredibly unique film. Its editing is odd and perfectly timed, its soundtrack is powerful, and it all flows in a way audiences have never seen before. A retro cop movie vibe masks a much more serious undertone; a gloomy reflection of modern day oppression.

 The movie has an R rating for strong language, specifically for a major use of racial epithets, as well as disturbing, violent material and some sexual references. Slurs are thrown around countlessly between white members of the Klan. While there is a lot of offense behind all of these words, their use was necessary to portray the level of uncomfort the film aimed to give the audience. There’s a fine line between patriotism and xenophobic bigotry.

Within only a week of the movie’s release, it has already won two awards: the Cannes Grand Prix (second only to the Palme d’Or) at the Cannes Film Festival and the Prix du Public UBS at the Locarno Film Festival.

See Also: Voices of Webster: Lee film shares police officer’s bizarre true story


Colin Shue – Graphics Editor

This is junior Colin Shue’s first year on the ECHO team. His sophomore year he wrote a few stories as a contributing writer. Today, he works as a graphics editor as well as creates and manages his own weekly blog.

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