(Focus Features, 2018)
Set in 1972, BlacKkKlansman follows Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first African-American officer and detective in Colorado Springs, who goes undercover and manages to infiltrate the white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan over the phone, even smooth- (or hate-) talking his way up to head-honcho David Duke (Topher Grace). Using a white police officer, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), as his in-person substitute, Ron works his way up to become head of the local chapter, while his entanglement with Patrice (Laura Harrier), a black liberationist college student, threatens to cause conflict with the case. BlacKkKlansman also stars Robert John Burke as Police Chief Bridges and Alec Baldwin as Dr Kennebrew Beauregard.
The film tells the little-known true story of real-life Ron Stallworth, now 65, who turned his experience undercover with the KKK into a memoir entitled Black Klansman. BlacKkKlansman is incredibly topical, given the current political climate and the recent rise in alt-right movements and groups, and the increase in violent political activism particularly in the US.
The film is refreshingly different in style from the majority of mainstream films out at the moment, though still banking on the selling power of nostalgia, with its quirky 70’s aesthetic and unique cinematography. The deadpan humour is well-written, relying primarily on the irony of hearing ‘God Bless White America’ coming from a black mouth. BlacKkKlansman also provides a glimpse into the proceedings of a group that I’m sure many are intrigued by, given their extremist views and insular nature, and gives us the chance to laugh at the expense of widely despised people.
Unfortunately, the film doesn’t delve into Flip’s personal story as much as one might wish, making his character arc feel unresolved. The film’s ending is somewhat heavy-handed and amateur looking, given the lighter tone of the rest of the film. However, this does drive home the reminder that this is not simple a narrative frozen in the past, but an active struggle against hate that is still taking lives today.
Whatever your level of involvement in current politics, most audiences will get a kick out of this film.
BlacKkKlansman came out in Australian cinemas August 9th. Keep an eye out for our upcoming giveaway where you could win tickets to see BlacKkKlansman in theatres!