It’s the early 1970s, and Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Determined to make a name for himself, Stallworth bravely sets out on a dangerous mission: infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan. The young detective soon recruits a more seasoned colleague, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), into the undercover investigation of a lifetime. Together, they team up to take down the extremist hate group as the organization aims to sanitize its violent rhetoric to appeal to the mainstream.
“BlacKkKlansman” is a furious, funny, blunt and brilliant confrontation with the truth. It’s an alarm clock ringing in the midst of a historical nightmare, and also a symphony, the rare piece of political popular art that works in all three dimensions.
Spike Lee’s fearless embrace of contradiction gives “BlacKkKlansman” its velocity and heft. It is worth pausing to admire its sheer, dazzling craft, the deftness of its tonal shifts — from polemical to playful, from humorous to horrific, from blaxploitation to Classical Hollywood and back again — and the quality of its portraiture. Mr. Washington is witty and charismatic (yes, he’s Denzel’s son), and like Ron he takes the job seriously and enjoys the hell out of it. Detective work, like detective movies, can be a lot of fun. The layers of intrigue and suspense show Mr. Lee’s sometimes underappreciated genre skills. The low-key psychological insight demonstrates his (also underrated) way with actors.
A.O. Scott / The New York Times