Spike Lee’s superb and timely BlacKKKlansman debuts today on Sky Cinema Premiere.
It is the early 1970s in Nixon-era America, a time of great social upheaval as the struggle for civil rights rages on. Ron Stallworth becomes the first African-American detective on the Colorado Springs Police Department but his arrival is greeted with scepticism and open hostility by his department’s rank and file. Undaunted, Stallworth resolves to make a name for himself and a difference in his community. He bravely sets out on a dangerous mission to infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan.
This engrossing film offers an unflinching examination of race relations in 1970s America that is bracingly relevant today. Bearing the typical Spike Lee trademark – it is his best film in years – it provides a rollicking combination of comedy, blaxploitation spoof and undercover thriller, with bursts of sax from Terence Blanchard’s moody, jazz-inflected score.
John David Washington (son of Denzel) gives a breakout performance of supreme confidence and borderline swagger worthy of his dad as the stoic, charismatic Stallworth and undeniably steals the movie. Adam Driver, meanwhile, as his white cop partner, Flip, also impresses and Laura Harrier as a black student union organiser, whom Ron falls for, is equally effective. Topher Grace makes a mannerly, almost effete grand wizard giving Lee the chance to tug hard on the film’s links to modern-day America.
In short, Lee does more than control his anger, he refines it with riotous wit, without losing the power to shock or surprise us. Yet sadly he shows that American bigotry is far from a thing of the past.
BlaKkKlansman – From Friday 17 May on Sky Cinema Premiere.