Spike Lee has developed one of the most unique directing styles in film today. The New York native has a style defined by anger towards social and racial injustices; his greatest films came from focusing on such a subject (Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X), in recent years Lee’s films had drifted into confusing hybrids between intense documentaries and fable-like stories. In BlacKkKlansman, Lee’s latest, he rediscovers some sense of balance.
BlacKkKlansman is the true story of a black cop named Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) in Colorado Springs who manages to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s with the help of white-cop Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver).
The incredulity of the story carries you through the first 20 minutes, but soon the slow pace starts taking its toll on the audience’s patience. David Washington isn’t given much leeway in diversifying his emotions, and thus his performance is largely one-note. In fact, it’s only Adam Driver that brings some electricity to his character, who as the undercover cop, has a meaty role to sink his teeth into.
Lee speeds things up with the finale, which is absolutely gripping with a score by Terence Blanchard and some potent editing. Nevertheless, the unevenness of Lee’s tone drags the film down from what could have been a powerful biography. His indecisive editing choices, where he mixes styles from multiple genres, and slow pacing relegate BlacKkKlansmaninto simply a film about a curious event in history.