Despite Spike Lee’s bizarre career filled with decisive and polarizing films, sometimes of questionable quality, Lee has always been a filmmaker that’s worn his emotions on his sleeves and has never shied away from using cinema as a way to tell us how he feels about the world we live in. Films like “Do the Right Thing” and “25th Hour” are both raw, fiery, unfiltered looks at the tensions and fears everyone was feeling at the time, one looking at a racial divide turning into hate, while the other comes to terms with an insecure country after the events of 9/11. His films are strangely timely timeless films – stuck in a particularly tough moment in time, yet delivering a powerful message about racial (in)equality which resonates forever.
Spike Lee continues this trend of timely timeless cinema with his newest film, “BlacKkKlansman,” as he delivers far more than just a compelling crime thriller about a black cop infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan and the game of cat-and-mouse that ensues. Lee never once shies away from how the vile and hate of these Klansmen hasn’t gone away to this day, and that the world is still filled with unrelenting prejudice that we shouldn’t stand for. This makes “BlacKkKlansman” not only the most important movie of the summer, but one of the most important movies in years, made by one of the most important filmmakers of our time.
One aspect worth noting about “BlacKkKlansman” is that principal shooting and photography was completed well over a year ago. Lee’s intent was to tell a true story about the first African-American detective in the 1970s and his tense job to befriend members of the KKK that delivers a thrilling ride built on the pillars of racial indifference.
Then the hateful and tragic white supremacist rally in Charlottesville happened, changing the course of this movie. It wasn’t just that the morals and philosophies of the KKK still exist today, but that this racist, repulsive way of thinking feels safe and protected when the leader of the free world doesn’t condone it. These acts of violence and racial divide will only continue if our leaders won’t stand against it and even outright applaud this behavior.
Like Lee’s many other films, it is this unbridled energy to showcase the hate in the world that serves as the driving force for “BlacKkKlansman.” Despite being accurately set in the 1970s, the film is very much about our modern society. Lee gives strength to those voices that would normally be silenced and turns the spotlight on a world that needs to be reminded what love, acceptance and power really looks like. Through stellar performances from John David Washington, Adam Driver and Topher Grace, plus a very in-your-face visual style that Lee is known for, we get a film that invokes the best and worst in humanity.
With films like “BlacKkKlansman,” “Sorry to Bother You” and “Black Panther” being released this year, and so many others like “Get Out” and “Selma” in last few years, it is safe to say we have entered a new era of filmmaking that isn’t afraid of making a bold statement about racial inequality and the need to tell new stories from different perspectives than audiences are used to. These films are helmed by stylish, diverse filmmakers that want to use cinema as a way to not only entertain and entrance, but to reflect. I, for one, am honored to be take part in this new age of diverse filmmaking and feel that “BlacKkKlansman” is one of the high points of this age.
Final Grade: A