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Review contains spoilers!
BlacKkKlansman is the second-best American theatrical film of 2018 (only Avengers: Infinity War is better). Ron Stallworth and Flip Zimmerman, a pair of very likeable police officers, mount a funny, tense, and ultimately successful operation against the KKK. It's immensely satisfying to watch white supremacists get repeatedly fooled and defeated. The film also contains some commentary on the American film industry's racist history, with 'The Birth of a Nation' in particular getting a much-deserved pasting. Terence Blanchard's score is a delight (I've listened to it over and over). Every actor gives a fine performance. Some people have taken issue with the movie's mainly positive portrayal of police, but as the director said, we need police. Police are human beings and there is nothing wrong with celebrating their contributions to society.
The 1970s setting is used to great effect (so many afros!). However, part of what makes the film great is that it has the guts to directly reference the Trump era, something no other narrative film has done (other than The Trump Prophecy). A theme of the film is that the Klan is attempting to make their ideas seem "respectable" so that they could one day seek political office. The film reminds you that American white supremacy is a deep-rooted problem with historical precedent.
The closest thing the film has to a weakness is the narrative function played by one character named Patrice. It's not bad, but her role amounts to dating Ron, temporarily breaking up with him, and getting saved by him from an assassination attempt, so the Patrice-centric parts of the film feel a bit more conventional-Hollywood than the rest of the movie.
The majority of the film lets you have your fun, giving you a respite from a world where a white supremacist is president of the United States by letting you spend time in a world where white supremacists are less powerful. But then the ending refuses to let you leave the theatre with a smile on your face and reminds you that there's work to be done. It's exactly the right choice, and the film should be commended for it.
I had a few issues with the film. For one, the film implies that Flip was brainwashed by the ideology of the Ku Klux Klan, yet in practically every scene Flip is on the knife edge of being killed due to being discovered. When you pair that up with his utter disgust and mocking tone toward the Klan in several scenes, it really doesn't seem that convincing that Flip would suddenly go back to group that was far more charged with negative reactions than positive ones. The focus is most importantly put on Ron, but its silly to make such a sudden twist without trying to make it convincing to your audience, and it just comes off as cheap. I'm pretty sure Flip's real life counterpart, Chuck, wasn't too appreciative of that plot twist either.
I think Patrice's role was more utilitarian then Hollywood standard. She exists to voice his doubts about the police and reinforce his cynicism toward the police's self-protection practices. Still, aside from a fun scene where the two reference old blaxploitation films, the two have very little chemistry. They come a bit too hard on making Patrice inflexible to Ron's perspectives, to the point where I was genuinely wondering why he had shown any interest in her at all. She functions as a decent foil to the rest of the cast, but I think she could have been a friend or ally and the film wouldn't have had to strain itself to convince its audience that this was romance, even with the implication that it was going to fail.
The bad guys realizing white Ron is black Ron is such a leap in logic it just seems surreal. Even with them the voice and the face being in close proximity, the main characters didn't even do anything to make the Klan think there was a mole in their ranks. In the book the Klan never suspected Ron of being an infiltrator yet within the span of a few minutes of meeting the real Ron, the bad guys nearly figure out the whole operation. The jumps in deductions were done for the sake of drama, but unlike the other fictionalized events in the film, they really didn't have any meaning and pacing seem to go at a mile a minute.
Otherwise, I think the movie really is fantastic. I like that it addresses the good sides of the police but also points out how some of the traditionalist forms of thinking have allowed corrupt cops to be immune to legal prosecution, a problem that continues to this day. It does a good job at indicating how racism has evolved and how its proponents hide it through veiled language and implications. It's also pretty brave to protest a president that is still in power.
It deserved to win Best Picture more than Green Book
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