Spike Lee's answer to Trump

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Wednesday August 8, 2018
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Spike Lee's answer to Trump

Based on a true story, director Spike Lee's latest, "BlacKkKlansman" is the tale of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), a rookie cop in Colorado Springs during the early 1970s. Facing racism within his own department, Stallworth takes on a daunting assignment: he hopes to infiltrate and bring down the KKK. Joining forces with Jewish detective Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), the two plan their moves. Stallworth talks to Klan Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace) on the phone, while Zimmerman joins the organization undercover, using Stallworth's name.

The language in "BlacKkKlansman" is not for the faint-hearted. Scenes with Klansmen include some of the most racist and anti-Semitic slurs imaginable, yet both Stallworth and Zimmerman stand their ground, determined to see their mission through. Stallworth and Duke forge a close friendship over the phone, Duke having no idea that he's talking to an African American man. Topher Grace may make viewers' skin crawl with his portrayal of Duke, a handsome, charming white supremacist whose hatred for non-whites simmers just beneath the surface. The look on Stallworth's face shows it's not easy for him to listen to such talk, but he forges on. John David Washington is quite good in this role. He's the son of Oscar winner Denzel Washington, and an up-and-coming talent worth keeping an eye on.

Zimmerman, meanwhile, has so impressed his new "friends" that he's chosen to lead the Klan's local chapter. Adam Driver is superb in these scenes as a Jewish man forced to listen to Holocaust denial and conspiracy theories about Jews. He has to take part in such talk so as not to blow his cover. He's also forced to confront his own Jewish heritage, which he appears to have kept under wraps.

Eventually the two detectives uncover a KKK bomb plot. They must race against time to thwart it. "BlacKkKlansman" is a riveting film from start to finish, a disturbing look inside a dark and ugly world. Spike Lee doesn't attempt to explain the minds of white supremacists. We simply see them for what they are: people whose hatred comes from a place deep within. Who knows where that hate comes from?

Lee made the film as a direct response to the rhetoric of Donald Trump and all the hate it has inflamed. The film concludes with actual footage of the recent violent clashes in Charlottesville, VA, where white supremacists fought with anti-KKK protesters. Heather Hyer, 32, a peaceful protester, was killed during the riots when a white supremacist ran her over with his car. Lee dedicates the film to her memory. (Opens Friday.)