Adam Driver and John David Washington

Adam Driver and John David Washington infiltrate the KKK in “BlacKkKlansman”

Controversial filmmaker Spike Lee once again fuels dialogue on race relations with his newest endeavor chronicling a true story from Colorado Springs set in 1972. Based on the 2014 memoir “Black Klansman” by Ron Stallworth, Lee’s film depicts the small town’s first hiring of an African-American police officer (Stallworth). 

Stallworth is largely accepted within the ranks of the Colorado Springs Police Department, but it’s the vocal pushback by the few that’s most troubling to watch. The verbal abuse directed squarely at Stallworth only intensifies as he investigates the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan undercover.

“BlacKkKlansman” is an unsettling and painful reminder of our history that demands remembering for so many reasons. Most importantly, that we strive to never repeat the hatred or divisive ways of our nation’s past. A tall order in a media culture that stages opposing arguments 24/7 to invoke only heated debate and highlight our differences as a nation. Kudos to Lee for a straightforward, honest presentation that stays clear of politics until an unfortunate ending punctuated by soundbites and violence between Antifa vs. white supremacists.

This thought-provoking look back at American society from 50 years ago is dramatic due to two exceptional castings. John David Washington, the son of Hollywood legend Denzel Washington, carries the torch of patience, professionalism and law enforcement as Stallworth. 

Giving just as gritty of a performance is none other than Adam Driver, as Stallworth’s detective partner and accomplice at infiltrating the Klan. Together, they not only breakup a hate group but also show us how it was possible (then back in 1972) for blacks and whites to work together and have each other’s back.

In today’s world of political divisiveness and the constant media stroking of fear and violence, it’s important to follow the lead of the Colorado Springs Police Department: working together for common goals and compassion towards others. We are stronger together than we are divided. Hatred and division will only beget violence and discord. 

This historic film soberly documents one man’s journey to break down barriers and stop racial hatred. Yet director Lee, against the backdrop of the hatred and violence spewed in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year, can’t end “BlacKkKlansman” on an inclusive note. Instead, he attempts to score political points against half of the voting public and continue to fuel Black Lives Matter and Antifa hatred towards law enforcement. An unfortunate 2018 political ploy to bookend an otherwise compelling true story from 1972. 

Patrick King is a resident of Tucson and writer for the Reel Brief movie blog at www.reelbrief.com.  You may email him at reelbriefmoviereviews@mail.com.

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