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The film had me within its first five minutes. After a scene from Gone With the Wind, it opens with a speech, no, a tirade by a Kennebrew Beauregard, played by Alec Bladwin. He is recording an anti-semitic, racist, xenophobic… an all-encompassing hate speech the way maybe only Baldwin can pull it off. He is stopping, doing it again, doing speech exercises, asking his producer for lines, getting it wrong, doing it over, never stop, never stopping. A relentless avalanche of evil pseudo-philosophy spills on the screen, and the tone is set for what’s to come. I did beg the Great of Lord of Movie Scripts twice during this film, the first time was to bring the Baldwin character back during the film, make him the centerpiece even. That remained unheard, but my second wish was granted (maybe because I was only a half-bad boy during the year): When Adam Driver showed up a bit later, as a police detective called Flip working with main character Ron on his undercover operation to get intelligence on the organization that is the KKK, I begged that Driver would be the one to take the role of White Undercover Scam Supremacist – and he did! I was happy!

That’s the thing about Spike Lee’s latest film: it makes you happy. Which is weird, given the background of racism and hate, police violence and murder. Someone called it a buddy cop movie, and to a degree it is a very entertaining entry into that particular genre. There are times when I wondered whether this is the right approach, whether the script does not take its subject matter too lightly, whether I would not rather have Lee taken a more angry approach to his perennial theme. This kind of nagged me all through the film in an odd fashion, me being unhappy about my happiness to see such a splendidly put together piece of proper movie making. Even after having seen it, and that means even after having seen the director’s own way of addressing this supposedly treacherous light-heartedness by adding a final sequence that is all but, I am not perfectly sure. I am undecided whether the final moments are the perfect way to kick the audience in the nuts when they just decided to leave the theatre with a smile in their face. Or whether the severity of those final scenes are somehow unrewarded. I lean towards the former, but maybe that is only because I credit Spike Lee with not being light-hearted about his approach at all, I give him the benefit of doubt by way of his oeuvre. With a different director, I might be more inclined to shout foul play.

Thing is, I don’t need to make a decision on this. The film in all its dimensions leaves me happy and outraged, and my guess is this is what it is supposed to do. As a film, it is among Spike Lee’s best in my book, especially because of the thoroughly terrific cast, where I found myself checking a dozen actors’ names on IMDB. Not just Driver and main character Ron played by John David Washington, not just Harry Belafonte’s short and powerful appearance or Corey Hawkins leading the black revolution. Almost every single cop, Klan member or Black Power activist impressed me. I cannot remember the last time a full cast delivered such a coherently first class performance.

There was mention of the liberties the script writers took with the true events on which the film is based. To this, as always in these cases, I say: balls! This is a movie, and a movie has the obligation to take liberties, as the format requires adaptation of characters and time lines. Films that are religiously true to the books on which they are based or the lives they represent more often than not are dull. BlacKkKlansman is not.

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/blackkklansman

 

 

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