Spike Lee directs the stranger-than-fiction true story of a black Colorado police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. John David Washington stars as Ron Stallworth, who struck up a relationship with local KKK members over the phone and acted through a white surrogate for face-to-face encounters. Adam Driver plays Stallworth’s partner in the investigation. Just how much is truth and how much is fiction, I don’t know. But in the movie, things come to a head when David Duke comes to town and the Klan plans to honor his presence by bombing a black student function.
BlacKkKlansman unfolds at a nice pace, revealing interesting supporting characters and continually ratcheting up our concern for the policemen’s and students’ safety. Washington and Driver carry the film admirably, Laura Harrier is very good as the president of the black student union, and Topher Grace puts in a surprisingly effective turn as Duke. Harry Belafonte is also memorable in a spotlighted cameo. Lee balances the severity of the subject matter with a healthy dose of humor and manages to draw interesting parallels — some subtle, some humorously obvious — to our contemporary political climate. His only mis-step, in my opinion, is in the final five minutes of the film when he starts incorporating recent news footage of Donald Trump and racial violence. The film had already beautifully made its point before such a blunt tactic ever needed to be implemented.
Academy Award: Best Adapted Screenplay
Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (Driver), Score, Film Editing