The highest-ranking movie on our end of year list that isn’t a superhero movie or part of a franchise, Blackkklansman deals with a different kind of hero taking on a real-world baddie. It’s surprising, upsetting and important, but it’s also just as thrilling and entertaining as any of the year’s blockbusters.
Based on the true story of Ron Stallworth – the first African American cop in a Colorado Springs precinct in the 1970s who infiltrated a branch of the Ku Klux Klan with the help of his white Jewish colleague – it’s a story so incredible it would be hard to believe were it not based on facts.
After bagging an undercover gig on the force, Stallworth (John David Washington) responds to a newspaper recruitment ad for the KKK and manages to convince various Klansmen, including Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace), that he’s a white, racist anti-semite.
When the Klan want to meet in person, Ron turns to his Jewish colleague Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to take on the job, in a plan that becomes increasingly risky in an attempt to foil a potentially fatal Klan plot.
Director Spike Lee adapts from the real Ron Stallworth’s novel in a movie that refuses to be pigeonholed. At times it’s a comedy romp, at others a hard-hitting polemical, with a gut-punch ending that flips between joyously uplifting and utterly devastating within moments, it’s a history lesson made all the more troubling because of its modern-day repercussions.
Washington and Driver give two powerful parallel performances that have already won them both nominations in the Golden Globes and the SAG awards – Oscar noms are bound to follow. In fact, Blackkklansman is one of the overall awards frontrunners this year, with the movie up for Best Drama and Lee for Best Director in the Globes – the film already won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes 2018.
But Blackkklansman is hardly awards bait. Released at the end of August in a fairly flat summer, the film might be an incredible true story but it doesn’t pull its punches or pander to its audience. Dealing with police corruption and brutality and, crucially, the rise of David Duke and how his particular brand of racist rhetoric has lead to the political situation we have now, it’s at times a tough watch.
The final scenes of the movie show footage from the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, including part of Duke’s speech, the car attack by a white supremacist on the counter-protesters that resulted in the death of Heather Heyer, and Donald Trump’s response. Talk about frightening.
After teaming up for last year’s Get Out (voted by our writers as movie of the year in 2017), Jason Blum and Jordan Peele are on board as producers – so perhaps like that wild card, released well away from awards season, Blackkklansman will get the acclaim it deserves.
We really hope so – this is up there with Lee’s strongest work and it deserves to be celebrated and seen.