This is some fo’ real, fo’ real shit.
BlacKkKlansman follows the real life story of Ron Stallworth, the first black police officer in 1970’s Colorado Springs. Unhappy with his current position he pushes for a more hands-on approach and is given an assignment to go undercover at a meet up that potentially has ties to the infamous Black Panthers. After this mission he is delegated to the Intelligence division, having a taste of being up close and personal to the action, Ron takes matters into his own hands when he attempts to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan.
The story is absolutely fascinating, filled with colourful and memorable characters which help give the film life. The acting ranges from very good to average, no bad performances but no stand outs either. The lead, John David Washington, definitely has potential, especially if he were given a stronger script. Adam Driver has the potential to be great, as shown in his previous films, but again the script definitely let him down in that regard.
The cinematography and the overall look of the film was great, possibly Spike Lee’s best looking film so far, despite its limited budget. There are lots of different filming techniques that compliment what’s happening in the scene. One scene where there is a knock on the door and the camera follows them frozen in place holding their guns out with the background moving, adding to the surreal tenseness of the situation.
Having said that, Lee definitely over-used the dutch angles, where the camera is slightly or quite dramatically tilted, for seemingly no reason in particular, other than to make the film look stylish. However it had the opposite effect as it is quite jarring sometimes and never seemed warranted. It’s a stylistic choice that doesn’t seem to work quite as well as intended.
The tone of this film is wildly different than what the story deserved. It was very comedic, and oftentimes seemed lighthearted for what is a serious and sensitive issue. The actual situation is funny and a little crazy but instead of having a serious film set around these crazy moments, the whole film seems crazy, which unfortunately lessens how dangerous and wild infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan was.
It seems like Spike Lee wanted to make fun of the Klan members so he made them appear useless and nonthreatening for a majority of the film. Even very serious moments between Ron and Patrice, a college student who is principal of the black power movement in Colorado Springs, just seem unimportant as they are played too lightly for them to have any meaning.
The big meeting scene could have been so compelling and tense if the tone was set throughout the film of exactly what is at stake, but as the film has been nonchalant about the dangers and importance of everything, it has no impact. It’s practically nothing. Which is truly a shame because if the tone had been more serious, this could have been Spike Lee’s best film ever, instead it’s just another Spike Lee joint.