The question on many people’s minds in anticipation of BlacKkKlansman is this: After several years of critical misses, does Spike Lee have another provocative, crowd-pleasing dramatic feature left in him? The premise alone seems to suggest he might, as it’s based on the astounding true story of Detective Ron Stallworth, the first black officer in Colorado Springs, who managed to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan in 1979. In order to track their activities, Stallworth convinced the organization that he was a white racist via phone conversations with Klan members, including then-grand wizard David Duke, while a white undercover officer pretended to be him when meeting with them in person. It wasn’t until 2006 that Stallworth went public with the operation, and in 2014, he wrote a book about his experiences, Black Klansman.
The first trailer for Lee’s film (which debuts just as the film had its premiere at Cannes) ups the anticipation factor here, with what looks to be a great cast and some witty dialogue. John David Washington, son of frequent Lee collaborator Denzel Washington, plays Stallworth, who does a pretty good impression of a stereotypical white man’s voice. Adam Driver is Flip Zimmerman, Stallworth’s partner who acts as his stand-in when meeting with the KKK face to face. Elsewhere, Topher Grace portrays David Duke, Straight Outta Compton’s Corey Hawkins is Stokely Carmichael, and everyone’s favorite Isiah Whitlock even pops in for a second in an as-yet-unspecified role.*
When you add in Jordan Peele as a producer, BlacKkKlansman feels like it could be a triumph following such disappointing fare as Da Sweet Blood of Jesus and the remake of Oldboy, as well as the very polarizing Chi-raq. With the acute timeliness of the subject matter and what appears to be a darkly humorous buddy-cop approach, this could be a nice return to form. The film arrives in theaters Aug. 10.
Correction, May 14, 2018: This post originally misspelled Isiah Whitlock’s first name.