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BlacKkKlansman Review

Perhaps the United States is this hopeless because of how many people live there. Not just in issues of race and culture but in a general sense. Population density leads to nutjobs in a higher amount. BlacKkKlansman knocks back at the late 1970s and those that sought to divide it. Spike Lee at his finest. That fine blend between commercial viability and deeply moved, ascertainable details that were, somehow, not plagued by the midpoint of the Donald Trump presidency. Art as a reactionary tool is an important one but so few these days can chew down and swallow modern topics well enough, whether that is through a contemporary lens or a flashback feature. BlacKkKlansman has the benefit of looking back and has a man behind the camera with rich knowledge and passion. 

Lee taps into that nicely. His strong arms of the law cracking down on not just the attitude of the time but the impractical solutions to problems that came through with the animosity. Where the Vietnam War has been used as a weak mask for politically literate features of the last few years, BlacKkKlansman takes the opposite turn. It articulates the back and forth of the period, the racial tension and the racism on frequent display throughout the police force and connects that with the future. John David Washington finds himself working through musical cues and well-directed scenes that flare up the traits of his character. It is too late for Ron Stallworth to turn back now, not just for the romance but for the undercover operation he finds himself in.  

Stallworth is a magnificent profile of one of the few good officers around. It toes the line well with some nice bits of comedy but within that humour are clarity and well-balanced tensions. Values are tied to experience and background. But shared values defy orientation, background, colour, and everything in between. BlacKkKlansman showcases that wonderfully and strongly. Breaks are needed from that, although montage shots showcasing the art of the time, the Coffy and the Cleopatra Jones features, are a bit stinted in their pacing. Beyond those spotty moments that are a little stiff but serve the characters well, are moments of deep consideration of what heritage means beyond that of race or religion. It is about finding people and there is a unity within BlacKkKlansman that comes from the strangest, well-directed places. 

Should trust be levelled at those who wear the same ideals? Maybe, maybe not. BlacKkKlansman marks some interesting discussion around the trust that comes from familiar, seemingly like-minded people. It is the echo chamber on either side that creates the madness in the middle. Little details, the interplay of two groups clearly opposed, and the characters at the heart of it, are the crucial parts of this piece. Lee directs well and lets his characters represent great and aching issues. Harry Belafonte is a stunning inclusion and recounts the horrors of the past. Lee ties them in with the present and ultimately, unfortunately, showcases the future too. BlacKkKlansman manages to flow well, its pacing keeps tension and humour in perfect balance. Lee and his cast have such graphic retelling, horrific detail and defiance in the face of it.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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