Director Spike Lee took a true life account from the 1970s and with skill and artistry made a contemporary masterpiece. Every character breathes life into the movie. The director uses his immense talent in making the story a hauntingly beautiful tale including camera touches that make characters look like paintings or sculptures. The protagonist is an undercover black police officer who is wedged between extremists. He is a person who truly wants to eliminate the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in of all places Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), an undercover policeman is investigating a meeting of the Black Student Union (BSU) at University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. He reveals his true identity when he begins dating BSU leader Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier). They date and keep in close contact.
Later, Ron calls the local Klan leader and mistakenly gives his real name. He is put in charge of two other agents to form a team whose purpose is to trap the local Klan. His Jewish partner, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) works undercover as the white version of Ron. Ron teaches Flip how to speak like him. After they meet the “white Ron” at a bar, they suspect him of being an infiltrator, but he jokes and cajoles them off his trail. He makes great strides with the leader of the local white sheet mob Walter Beachway (Ryan Eggold).
Ron has endless nerve and doggedly purses the investigation of the local Klan and the Black Students Union. Through a series of intercut scenes the two extreme groups are contrasted. They both represent movements that are polar opposites. Both sides are hate filled and contemplate violent action.
One of the Klansmen steals ordinance from the army. The stolen explosive C4 has a role in the movie as a plot devise. In movie speak; it is a MacGuffin, a prop in the form of some goal, objective or other motivator. The goal is to use the C4 to blow up the BSU and especially its leader.
The notorious David Duke comes to town to initiate the white Ron as leader of the local KKK chapter. The police chief is worried about trouble and picks an ideal policeman, Ron to guard Duke. On the same day as the initiation, Jerome Turner (Harry Belafonte) tells the BSU his eye witness story of a Waco, Texas, seventeen year-old black retarded boy, Jesse Washington, who was tortured, lynched and burned after being convicted by a kangaroo court of rape and murder of a white woman. The Mayor and Police Chief of Waco stood by as a mob of thousands gloated over the sickening rite. Souvenir pictures were taken of the horror.
At a church hall ceremony, Duke installs the white Ron who shortly after is exposed as a police infiltrator. The Klan persists in carrying forward its plot to bomb the BSU rally. The cops take position at the scene, so the Klan’s Connie Kendrickson (Ashley Atkinson) backs off. Then Connie is told to bomb Patrice’s apartment.
Ron wins then, but look at our country now. As William Faulkner said, “The past is not dead. It’s not even past.” Lee makes this point in the short but penetrating movie’s final scenes. We’ve seen Spike Lee concoct a show of force in many of his movies. But, BlacKKKlansmen is a triumph to behold.