Written by Wayne Townsend
Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman is a return to form for the famed director. Politically charged, it rekindles the social flames Lee has been known to fan throughout his illustrious career. The film tells the true story of Ron Stallworth, the first African-American police officer hired by the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) in the early 70s. Stallworth successfully infiltrated the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan by impersonating a white person over the phone when responding to an ad in the local paper. The CSPD opened an investigation using a white officer to show up to meetings, while Stallworth maintained contact through telephone conversations. The result of the investigation led to the discovery of US military personnel assigned to the North American Air Defense Command, or NORAD as members of the chapter. NORAD, as you may or may not know, is where the actual “button” is located to launch a US nuclear strike. Stallworth even got David Dukes to personally mail him his membership card, which Stallworth had framed in his office for the remainder of his career. Lee uses his distinct form of storytelling reminiscent of Do the Right Thing, arguably his best work here, to a lesser degree. When weaving a social tale, Lee rarely develops his characters into three- dimensional people. Rather, they usually embody a construct of what they represent, hate, jealousy, anger, etc. I used to think this was a flaw, but having seen all his work, I’ve come to realize it’s a tool. Think abstract art, and his signature shot, of the character in closeup on a dolly as the background, moves instead of the actor. BlacKkKlansman is a good film, Lee at his best, and a sad reminder that this country has yet to evolve into the place that the US Constitution, one of the greatest pieces of legislation ever written, purports to be. There is an exchange that is a direct reference to President Trump as David Dukes speaks to his fellow Klansmen about “making American great again,” not a too vailed indictment on this country’s race relations and a reminder that in the 21st century America hasn’t changed much since the 1970s, sad indeed. As I was leaving the theater, I asked a black couple in their 60’s how they liked the film. “I was told this was a ‘must see’ but what it was is the same old story,” the gentleman responded. His wife added, “yeah, there was nothing new.” I opined you’re right, but it’s a story we must keep telling and retelling, so the next generation can see the struggle. It is for that; this film gets 4 ½ out of 5.