Gaps: BlacKkKlansman

I really enjoyed BlacKkKlansman, so much so that I watched it in theaters a few times. The acting is great, the message is wonderfully needed/relevant in today’s world, and the plot generally makes sense and keeps the audience engaged. After my last viewing of the film, “generally”, becomes the operative term here.

For the first three fourths of the movie the plot takes intense, but logical turns. The undercover investigation develops, and the police department comes to increasingly embrace and support the investigation. However, when the movie nears it’s climax, with David Duke (played by Topher Grace) coming to town, the investigation is put in jeopardy when John David Washington is assigned to be Duke’s personal security detail.

Now even taking the undercover investigation out of the equation, this would be a baffling choice. Washington is the only non-white officer in the entire department. The movie claims that “everyone else is busy” which seems like a quick “band-aid” reason for this assignment. If we add in the fact that Washington has been conducting an undercover investigation over the phone, talking to Duke on a regular basis, this assignment makes even less sense has it jeopardizes the entire investigation. The chances of Duke recognizing the voice would basically end the investigation, and place Washington in danger, being found out and surrounded by the town’s entire KKK contingent. This move just simply doesn’t make sense from a police perspective.

Upon further research, this isn’t how the investigation panned out in real life, which makes much more sense. What I don’t understand, is why Spike Lee and the writers of the film adaptation decided to go down this route. Washington could’ve just followed Duke from afar. Adam Driver would’ve been there regardless, and having Washington in the room actually endangers the both of them via subconscious body language and the heighted state of awareness that Washington’s character’s presence has on the KKK members.

Once this random logical gap in the plot is overcome mentally, the rest of the movie falls into place quite nicely, and actually swells to an incredibly impactful ending. That being said, this gap is highly noticeable and slightly distracts from the overall plot and message.

Moments that Matter: BlacKkKlansman

First off, BlacKkKlansman is a very well-executed movie that manages a great deal of suspense, world building, and dark humor, all while shining a shocking light on the internal cracks within America’s often touted unity. The movie stays true to telling a story in an entertaining way, and uses this style to lower the guard of the audience, until finally delivering the knockout blow. The entire movie builds up the sense of a looming battle, a foreshadowing of repressed social/racial tensions boiling over, but these forces ultimately never comes into direct conflict on screen. Rather, a juxtaposition of the rising zeal on each sides shows a foreshadow of an impending climax. These moments precede the seemingly flat conclusion to the movie, however, I believe this conclusion to be the most meaningful moment of the entire film.

Now, the entire movie (coyly in some cases, unabashed in others) winks at present times in the most foreboding of ways. The ending is somewhat poignant as it concludes somewhat abruptly, aside from a scene of racially charged misunderstanding where John David Washington’s character is mistakenly taken for a criminal due to racially charged assumptions, the movie ends almost on a dime, and feigns a typical happy ending. The racist cop is busted, the town’s chapter of the KKK exposed, and it’s most radical voices jailed. That being said, the conclusion steadily finds an omnious mood, and without warning scenes from recent racially charged clashes and protests appear on the screen – particularly recent scenes from Charlottseville.

I can’t remember the last time a theater was so collectively enthralled and united in a viewing experience. The intent was clear, and was bubbling beneath the surface the entire time. The way that this scene attacked the audience after being so thoroughly disarmed by the “happy ending” was astonishing. I believe this moment fully encapsulates the end message of BlacKkKlansman.

The message being that, despite this – and other – true stories of justice for disenfranchised minorities, the fact of the matter is the fight is ever-present. Racism doesn’t end, it just becomes dormant, waiting to be re-catalyzed by the smallest of openings or provocation. The movie is asking the audience to reflect on itself, and asks them to evolve past the tensions of the 70’s.

The message really overtook my thoughts on the film. While BlacKkKlansman will leave you with lingering thoughts on how far we’ve really come as a society, it’ll also wildly entertain. Adam Driver and Washington’s characters “2-sides to the same-coin” interplay led to wildly entertaining suspenseful moments. The film also stayed grounded in ensuring that the police department wasn’t overly altruistic, but still maintained that a few “bad apples” can have an outsized impact in terms of how communities perceive the police overall. I would highly recommend this movie for an entertaining and thought provoking view into America’s continued internal struggle with change.