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The countdown for the Academy Awards continues this week. Next up for review, on the Best Picture nominated list, is the biopic BlacKkKlansman. I have the delightful challenge of watching the final four films before Sunday’s award show broadcast. As a movie buff, it is a challenge I am enjoying.
Bear with me as the blog becomes a movie review blog for the next few days. I hope you will enjoy my insights on these extraordinary films.
BlacKkKlansman stars John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace, Robert John Burke, Corey Hawkins, Jasper Paakkonen, Ryan Eggold and Harry Belafonte. Directed and co-written by Spike Lee, the crime drama is based upon the book Black Klansman, written by Ron Stallworth. The film carries an R rating, for language, moderate violence and scenes of injustice. It has a run time of 2 hours and 15 minutes.
BlacKkKlansman is nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Driver, Original Score, Best Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay.
First Black Police Officer in Colorado Springs
In the 1970s Ron Stallworth (Washington) becomes the first African American police officer, with the Colorado Springs, Colorado police department. Chafing at his entry level position, in the filing room, Stallworth convinces Chief Bridges (Burke) that he’s ready for more action.
The police chief sends Ron out on his first assignment as an undercover cop at a local Black Panther rally. Wired, and instructed to get a feel for what the group intends to do, Ron sits in on the meeting. Detective Flip Zimmerman (Driver) listens in from an unmarked car. A known activist, Kwame Ture (Hawkins), is scheduled to speak. At the rally, Ron meets Patrice (Harrier), president of the Black Student Union at the college. Ron listens, intrigued by Ture’s passionate words, and impressed with Patrice’s devotion.
Later Ron and Patrice meet for a drink. Off duty, but keeping his cover, Ron doesn’t tell Patrice that he is a cop, even when she recounts a disturbing experience from earlier in the evening. Driving Ture back to his hotel room, the car is pulled over and the occupants are harassed by a couple of officers.
After hearing Ron’s report, Chief Bridges declines to look further into the Black Panthers. The newly promoted officer is sent to the intelligence office, to answer phones and record leads. Not one to sit and do nothing, Ron makes a phone call that launches a risky undercover investigation.
Infiltrating the KKK
After seeing a recruitment ad in the local paper, Ron calls the Colorado Springs chapter of the KKK. Speaking to Klan chapter president, Walter Breachway (Eggold), Ron poses as a white man, interested in joining the organization. Impressed by Ron’s Aryan rhetoric, the two arrange a meeting.
Ron realizes he can’t attend the meeting. However, Detective Flip Zimmerman can! Because Ron erred, using his own name, Flip becomes Ron Stallworth. He meets with Breachway and another Klan member, Felix (Paakkonen). Felix is immediately suspicious of Flip. He suspects the new recruit is Jewish and pelts Flip with questions.
Ultimately, Flip is accepted into the Klu Klux Klan. Flip and Ron coordinate an in depth investigation. Ron handles all phone calls, including frequent info gathering chats with the Grand Wizard of the Klan, David Duke (Grace). Flip attends all local Klan meetings, always wired, while Ron stalks the group from a distance, taking photos and listening in.
Meanwhile, Ron continues to see Patrice. She is disturbed by the number of Klan flyers being distributed in the neighborhoods.
Induction into the Klan
Flip receives his KKK membership card. For his induction, the Grand Wizard himself is traveling to Colorado, to attend. Duke is impressed with the young man, due to the lengthy phone calls they’ve had. In a wry turn of events, Ron receives the security detail for Duke.
Tension mounts in the community. Duke arrives to lead the induction of new members. Patrice gathers students to hear guest speaker Jerome Turner (Belafonte) speak of sad injustices from his youth. Ron warns Patrice that there are rumors of a planned KKK attack. He begs her to cancel a student march, revealing at last that he is a cop. Infuriated, she sends Ron away.
And a couple of Klan members intend great harm, secreting away a bomb while they wait for an opportunity. Will Flip’s cover be blown before the investigation is completed? And can Ron and Flip prevent the violence that is threatened?
My Thoughts on BlacKkKlansman
This intriguing film pulled a range of emotions from me. Abundant humor sprinkled throughout the movie lightens a very heavy subject, without taking away from the seriousness of justice and equal rights for everyone. I loved the camaraderie between Ron and Flip. Both become acutely aware of racial injustice and work together to make changes. And both men uphold honor and the desire to protect, as police officers.
I’m always drawn to films based on true stories. The events portrayed in the movie actually happened. However, the true name of Ron’s undercover partner has never been revealed. Flip existed…in Ron’s book he’s referred to as Chuck…but nothing is known about who he is and where he is now.
Watching the movie, I also felt sorrow, shame, anger and finally hope. Several times I felt the sting of tears in my eyes. Racism is still very real, and it’s extremely difficult for me to understand how someone can hate another because of race or ethnicity. Some scenes were hard for me to watch in BlacKkKlansman. Injustice riles me and breaks my heart. The most moving sequence occurred as Jerome, played by Henry Belafonte, recounted horrific events from his childhood, while across town, the Klan watched an old black and white film depicting the very events he spoke about. I watched with tears in my eyes and a catch in my throat.
Spike Lee unapologetically offers a powerful, thought provoking film. I’m still thinking about it and feeling the weight of it…and longing for acceptance, equality and freedom for all.
Best Picture List with Reviews
Check out all of the Best Picture Nominated Films. Links are provided to the reviews I’ve written so far.
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