03rd Sep2018

‘BlacKkKlansman’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace, Alec Baldwin, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Robert John Burke, Brian Tarantina, Arthur J. Nascarella, Ken Garito, Frederick Weller, Michael Buscemi, Damaris Lewis | Written by Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee | Directed by Spike Lee

BlacKkKlansman-poster

Spike Lee returns to cinema screens after a small absence taking his mantel up at Netflix with the Roger Guenveur Smith one-man show Rodney King, as well as retooling his breakout 1986 hit She’s Gotta Have It into a critically acclaimed television series. Lee, famed in the same breath as he has been clouded in controversy, has been at the forefront of pioneering positive attitude on the representation of African Americans in cinema since is seminal 1989 work of Do the Right Thing, concerning the irrefutable oppression of his people and the police brutality governed in one of the hottest summers Brooklyn has seen. Taking a few hits along the road, both financially and critically. Lee has at every chance throughout his illustrious thirty-year career, propelled the African American community in the canon of film and popular culture. Its clear his heart lies in honest accurate representation and highlighting social issues both positive and negative.

In Lee’s latest cinematic effort BlacKkKlansman, he ventures into what is quite an unbelievable story that alone needs to be seen to be believed, and with Lee’s distinctive style (although stylistically incredibly slim lined) works an utter treat. Aesthetically speaking Lee’s trademarks are all here on show, dazzling and infectious, in fact, production wise it’s Lee’s soundest produced cinematic feature to date. But it is, of course, the story which is ever so strikingly apparent that rich with outlandish moments of hectic eccentricity. The picture itself at its own expense makes inner contextual jabs at itself, almost a tongue in cheek jobe to see if the story in itself is a dream. It’s infectious and engaging on the believability alone. Ever so more deepening with the charismatic performance of John David Washington, son of Spike Lee regular Denzel Washington and HBO Ballers fame. Washington leads the film with prowess and conviction as if this was no mere step of headlining his first feature film working with a true master of cinematic craft in Lee, but no sign of egotistical vanity is on site. The partnership on-screen with Adam Driver is both lacking and ultimately satisfying, and while that may be slightly contradictory. The relationship between the two is satisfactory with an efficient level of development but lacks a deeply connective tissue to be on the edge of your seat in certain predicaments of the plot, due to lack of connection between audience and character. However, the level of charm Washington brings to the proceedings, thankfully levels out the nihilistic and incredibly dark palette with a softer and lighter human element compared to the abhorrent nature of a certain organisation included in the film.

The lack of character development is shifted around to give a voice for antagonists, which depending on your ideology and manner of thinking will either irk or intrigue you in the basis of fairness depicting the issues at hand, even if it the people in question sometimes hang themselves with their own rope. Ultimately this leads to a grand build-up of tension and atmosphere that relinquishes itself in a devastating fashion, politically, physically and psychologically. The editing as well as the score by Barry Alexander Brown and Terence Blanchard, two Lee regulars on a multitude of his filmography, with the former delivering a chaotic rollercoaster of palpable pace and energy. The latter a fresh, poetic and often vibrant approach to difficult issues present. Both vital touches to a film that explores the bleakest deposits of mankind’s most despicable moments in bigotry.

It feels depressingly poetic the same cultural issues surrounding police brutality, racial oppression and prejudice that his magnum opus Do the Right Thing brought to the attention of millions, has still not resonated in the lives of so many two decades after its initial release. Feeling devastatingly cyclical, leading to only devastating repercussions. Having to go back for what almost forty years into the past to showcase terrifying parallels within our own current climate is an aspect of society that should terrify anyone and everyone no matter the race or creed. A montage of recent events before the closing credits leads to one of the most tragic and mortifying moments only reinforces the turbulent times we are yet to live through if change does not come about in political power. An element BlacKkKlansman delicately touches upon with moments throughout the film and then sends one more frighteningly spine shivering scene that will break whatever emotional resistance you have.

BlacKkKlansman is in UK cinemas now.

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