Spike Lee is not a subtle filmmaker. Sometimes, the stick of dynamite works better than the scalpel. Other times? Not so much. That’s sort of been the hallmark of his career, and in particular, the last handful of years. Well, this week, Lee is back with a vengeance, as he’s got one of his best movies to date coming out. The film in question is BlacKkKlansman, a piece of vital cinema that stands tall among anything else the auteur has done. Not only is it one of Lee’s best, it’s one of the year’s best as well, in addition to being a major Oscar player. This is something special folks.
Based on an incredible true story, the movie centers on Colorado Springs Police Officer Ron Stallworth (John David Washington). Teamed with partner Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), they would go undercover and take down the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. Initially, Ron calls up the Klan on a whim, but Walter (Ryan Eggold) is so taken by him, before long, Flip (standing in for Ron), is immersed in their activities. Walter, and later David Duke (Topher Grace) love “Ron” unabashedly, though Felix (Jasper Pääkkönen) is suspicious. As Flip struggles with the hate he hears on a daily basis, as well as his Jewish faith, Ron tries to pursue the case, while dealing with racism, along with a courtship of radical student Patrice (Laura Harrier). It’s suspenseful, exciting, and often hilarious, though with a poignantly sad ending. Lee directs and co-writes the adaptation of Stallworth’s book with David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel, and Kevin Willmott. The top notch supporting cast includes the likes of Ashlie Atkinson, Alec Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Robert John Burke, Ken Garito, Corey Hawkins, Paul Walter Hauser, Frederick Weller, and Isiah Whitlock Jr. Terence Blanchard again provides Lee with a score, while the cinematography here is by Chayse Irvin. Jason Blum and Jordan Peele are among the producers.
This is Lee at the height of his crowd pleasing abilities. At times, this is among the funniest films of 2018. At other times, it’s righteously angry. The mixture is messy, but pretty much spot on. A frequent target here, both literally and figuratively, is Donald Trump, so as much as this is a period piece, there are plenty of modern equivalencies to be found as well. His filmmaking is inspired, while Driver and Washington give two subtle yet moving performances. Not only is this almost certainly going to be a big financial hit, it could also really do some Academy Award damage. Yes, the movie is that good.
In terms of awards, BlacKkKlansman could be an across the board contender. Look for Focus Features to campaign it in Best Picture, Best Director (for Lee), Best Actor (for Washington), Best Supporting Actor (for Driver, Grace, and/or Pääkkönen), Best Supporting Actress (for Harrier), Best Adapted Screenplay (for Lee, Rabinowitz, Wachtel, and Willmott), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, and Best Original Score. At the moment, it seems like the film could really be a force in Picture, Director for Lee, Adapted Screenplay for Lee, Rabinowitz, Wachtel, and Willmott, Film Editing, and Original Score. Voters may very well embrace this one in a big way.
Here is how I would rank Lee’s ten best works to date:
10. She’s Gotta Have It
9. When The Levees Broke
8. Malcolm X
6. 4 Little Girls
5. He Got Game
4. Inside Man
2. Do the Right Thing
1. 25th Hour
On Friday, audiences will get a clap of cinematic thunder when BlacKkKlansman opens. Lee hasn’t been this good since 25th Hour, as you can see above. There’s so much to enjoy here, and it’s hard to imagine you won’t want to talk about what you saw once the end credits roll. Fans of Lee’s work will recognize so many of his trademarks, while also getting a chance to see him tackle something new. It all adds up to a real winner. No matter who you are, this is a flick to make time for. Go out of your way to see this one. You’ll be glad that you did. See it now, thank me later…
Be sure to check out BlacKkKlansman, in theaters this weekend!