Tonight I went to see the newest Spike Lee movie, knowing not much about it other than radio adverts I had heard. But knowing it was Spike Lee, and Adam Driver was involved I was up for seeing it.
I would highly recommend this film. Entertaining and clever, with lots of laugh out loud moments but also some very poignant and relevant subject matter.
It’s set in 1970s America during the civil rights movement. We see a rookie cop Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) join Colorado Springs police as their first black officer, and struggle with all that entails.
He manages to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan on the phone and convinces a white Jewish colleague (Adam Driver) to play him in person.
The film portrays the racial struggles of the time well, but also makes clear references to the current political climate in America. There are references to a racist getting into the position of President, America first and other large nods to the Trump administration. I found myself angry throughout that we as a society have not made as much progress as we should have in 40 years.
The pace of the film varies and there are a variety of different styles used in the film. Some scenes felt odd and out of place with the rest of the time (the dancing and singing scene) but the speech at the black student union at the start was very artful they way it moves and focuses on the faces as if you are experiencing the speech through their reactions. There is a set piece later that flicks between a klan meeting and a speech at the student union, this is very well done and the contrast incredibly striking.
The film was very balanced. The klan members are rightly portrayed as bigoted and extremist, but there are a range of positive white characters. John David Washington carries the film on his shoulders with ease, and is a very likeable character; but the balance comes from his love interest Patrice who shows her bigotry towards the police and that steadfast devotion to any cause can lead to tunnel vision, as she showed unwillingness to accept there might be other ways than her own to further her cause. Of course the language used throughout is abhorrent, but of course represents what people of colour experienced at the time, and still do today.
The most haunting aspect of the film is some real world footage from 2017 Charlottesville at the very end. It was such a stark contrast from the film, despite the allusions to the current relevance they whole room seemed to stop breathing. It was totally still as everyone took in the reality that this level of racism we had been laughing at the ridiculousness of during the film is still alive and well. The emotion that hit me during this set piece was a mix between sadness and anger; which I hope everyone else felt.
Overall I really enjoyed the film, and it is very much worth a watch for both the comedy and the relevance to todays issues. I did overhear some others saying they found it slow, and I will say if you are looking for a fast paced action movie, you won’t get that. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some nominations for this movie.