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This new Spike Lee film is based on the true story of Ron Stallworth (played by John David Washington), the first Black man hired into the Colorado Springs Police Department. After being stuck in the records vault, he is reassigned to the intelligence unit and happens on an ad for the Ku Kux Klan. Ron recruits Flip (played by Adam Driver), a more experienced detective, and they go undercover together to infiltrate the KKK. Lee has put together a really powerful film, probably one of his best in a very long time, that uses a “crazy, outrageous, incredibly true” story to probe into the past and present ugliness of racism and hatred based on race in America. Washington is great as the confident Stallworth; I also really liked Driver’s performance, particularly as I watched him slowly understand what was going on in terms of his own heritage. Both have great chemistry onscreen. I thought Topher Grace was a brilliant choice of casting for David Duke; it is amazing how much he looks and sounds like the younger Duke. Lee makes great music choices that complement the story and, in his characteristic way, weaves important lessons from history into the plot as well as homages to different genres (for example, references to the Blaxploitation films from the 70’s). The movie is hilarious in places, which seems odd in the context of the hatred spewed by members of the KKK but works really well. And the beginning and end of the movie are incredibly powerful as they weave together past and present. Huge thumbs up from me and my friend Sankhara. While it is not a perfect film – some references to the current time do not work as well as others – it presents in a very entertaining way a very important true story from the past and a very important and critical time in the present. I think this is one of his best films.

About Gary Burkholder

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