Adam Driver is a national treasure and we must protect him at all costs.
“BlacKkKlansman” is the true story of a black police officer in 1979 Colorado who leads an infiltration of the Ku Klux Klan. The film stars John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier and Topher Grace and is directed by Spike Lee.
This is one of those films you hear is based off a true story but assume Hollywood took extreme creative liberties on. I mean, a black police officer calling the KKK and then sending a white officer to pretend to be him, and eventually becoming a leader of the local chapter? That’s the thing of movies but you’d think no person would fall for such a plan in real life. But it did happen, and from what I can gather from a few quick searches about 90% of what happens in the film is on-par with real life. And how is the film? It’s pretty good, and marks a nice return for Spike Lee.
John David Washington (yes, Denzel’s son) is best known for his charismatic and rowdy football player on HBO’s “Ballers” and this is the first big film he’s asked to carry. Overall he does a solid job, with his Ron Stallworth being a quiet and composed officer, saying “yes sir” to his superiors and cracking a smile and “right on, soul brother” to his friends. At times he seems too passive it almost comes across as unnatural, but I think that’s more Washington’s take on the character than his actual acting.
Adam Driver plays Flip, the white officer who is sent to be the physical half of the KKK investigation while Stallworth makes contact over the phone. Driver, best known for being the best (and at this point maybe only good) part of the new “Star Wars” trilogy as Kylo Ren, has some dry comedic moments and a few scenes where he must prove he is loyal to the Klan at the drop of a hat or risk being exposed. It’s never really explained why the pair just don’t Driver makes the phone calls as well (they express their concern at the two’s voices sounding different) but I may be nitpicking.
Laura Harrier (“Spider-Man: Homecoming”) and Topher Grace are solid in smaller roles as Washington’s girlfriend and Klan Grandwizard David Duke, respectively, although she feels a bit undeveloped and almost shoehorned in for plot purposes. Oh, and Corey Hawkins is *fantastic* in his one scene as activist speaker Kwame Ture.
The film’s biggest issues come from Lee’s choices as a director, namely with editing and music. During Hawkins’ (again, great) speech the film keeps cutting to these odd close-up shots of different audience members faces and while it makes sense during one point, it then begins to undercut the dramatics of the moment. During the film’s climax the music and editing also seem out-of-place, and numerous scenes end in awkward line deliveries or too suddenly.
“BlacKkKlansman” is an at times fun, at times frustrating film filled with fine performances. It’s Spike Lee so any and all attempts at social commentary on the modern day are laid on pretty thick (one scene in particular feels added simply to turn to the camera and say, “Trump.”) but that doesn’t undercut the film as a whole. At two hours 15 minutes you never feel the film’s length and while this is a true story that could’ve been something truly great, ending up with “pretty good” isn’t bad.
Critic’s Grade: B
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