Category Archives: Film & TV

Review: Peterloo at Chapter by Roger Barrington

 

(3 / 5)

Mike Leigh’s rather uneven film of the 1819 “Peterloo Massacre” is an earnest account of the tragic event, but fails to engage.

On 16th August 1819, at St. Peter’s Fields in Manchester, an estimated crowd of 70,000 people peacefully congregated to hear the famous orator Henry Hunt speak about parliamentary reform.

Trouble had been brewing for a little while prior to this, as local malcontents had been rousing people in Manchester and surrounding area, to act about the social injustices of that time, in particular,  the lack of ability to vote for local representation to Parliament. This corrupt system exploited by the wealthy to their advantage, didn’t see any change until the Reform Act of 1832.

Mike Leigh is a fine writer and director. His “Life is Sweet” is one of the finest British films of the 1990’s. There isn’t much in “Peterloo” to proclaim that life is sweet for the vast majority of British people in 1819.

After the huge financial cost of fighting Napoleon’s French Army for 20 years culminating in Wellington’s triumph at Waterloo in 1815, the country endured a pitiless state of austerity, that makes the current situation in Britain pale into insignificance. The link between Waterloo and Peterloo is conveniently carried by Joseph, a bugler at the first and victim in the second encounter. A hero suffering from PTSD after the battle, and a sabered casualty induced by the actions of an intoxicated member of the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry in Manchester.

After the opening scene of Joseph at Waterloo, you witness his long trudge home that he and his companions had to make, whilst parliament decided to award Wellington a colossal financial reward for his victory. When Joseph eventually arrives home, in a state of virtual collapse to the dire living standards that people of the working class had to endure, you can quickly assess where Mike Leigh’s support lies.

This is a very promising start, but then the film stalls going on an endless stream of set pieces of public meeting and political conversations. It seemed like one of those ubiquitous historical documentaries whereby B actors dress up in garb distinctive of their time and station and invariably stare into middle distance. Whilst accepting that you have to provide sufficient background material to explain the ensuing climax, I did feel that I was back in the classroom attending a history lesson, rather than seated in a cinema to be entertained. And I love history!

The climax at St. Peter’s Field is well executed, but, again, not particularly engaging.

Mike Leigh has written a highly eloquent script and has a fine cast of British character actors to work with, and, where the film works best, is in its domestic scenes and personal engagements with Henry Hunt, (Rory Kinnear). He portrays Hunt as a vainglorious man, donning his conspicuous white hat – a brilliant orator, but to what extent he was working for the working class and to what extent he was promoting his own notoriety is questionable. (See image above).

Maxine Peake,  as Nellie, is a fine actress. She plays a stereotypical Manchester mother struggling with bringing up a family in early nineteenth-century Britain,  but is wasted in what she has to work with. Being a Bolton lass. she could play her role in her sleep. At least her accent is authentic, which is more than I can say about others, whose lapses made them sound more like coming from Bristol than Manchester.

Overall, though, the acting is fine. Tim McInnerny as the Prince Regent returning to the period that he so memorably played as Lord Topper in Black Adder the Third, manages to portray the soon to be George IV, as a totally odious man, an opinion that historians tend to agree with. The final scene of the film, where the Regent in an audience with Prime Minister Lord Liverpool, (Robert Wilfort) and Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth, (Karl Johnson), based on historical fact, has George offering his congratulations to the military for imposing the tranquility of the scene, would be laughable for its irony, if it wasn’t for the fact that 15 men, women and children had been fatally injured and an estimated 400-700 sustaining injuries from the sabre charge of the militia.

Peterloo is obviously a labour of love for Mike Leigh. He has a point to make, and, by and large, he makes it. He doesn’t go overboard with sentimalisimg the working class. Some are odious, and not all the villains of the tragedy, the magistrates who ordered in the militia were evil.

The film reminded me, in some ways of Tony Richardson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (1968) and   Sergey Bondarchuk’s “Waterloo) (1970). You can’t but admire it, but you can’t love it.

It is a sobering thought as we navigate the tumultuous waters of Brexit, that very nearly 200 years ago, people in Manchester, in particular were fighting for democracy. After the Battle of Waterloo, soldiers returning home, suffered in the same way as those having fought in WW1. Not a land fit for heroes but one of austerity and hardship. 1815-1918-2018. I believe that many people, in part, voted to leave the European Union because they thought that things couldn’t be any worse than they are now. Perhaps they need to be reminded by films like Peterloo, that, in comparison to our ancestors, nearly all of us live a life of luxury. The perfect irony is that in 2018, one of the areas that are the staunchest supporters of remaining in the Union, Manchester, is the same community that fought for democracy 200 years previously. Now, you could argue, these people have become  victims of the political process that they fought and died for.

 

 

Roger Barrington

Continue reading Review: Peterloo at Chapter by Roger Barrington

Review Widows by Jonathan Evans

(5 / 5)

We have a gang that performs heists together, they all have wives, during one job it goes as bad as it can and now all the members of the gang have widows that must go on without them. A simple and solid set-up that can lend itself to many different end products, what we get is one of the greatest heist movies I have ever seen.

Pretty much as soon as the movie begins you realise you are in the hands of a master. Showing one married couple while startlingly parallel cutting to a disastrous heist that all the husbands are a part of. Already we efficiently have a grasp of who these characters are, how they relate to each other and what the setup is.

The couples are Harry Rawlins (Liam Neeson) and Veronica (Viola Davis), Carlos Perelli (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), Florek Gunner (Jon Bernthal) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki). All come from different worlds, are different ethnicities, have different relationships and would certainly never be together by their own choice if we’re not for the job and their husbands.

Their husbands may be gone but the consequences are still waiting for them. Harry stole money from a man named Jamaul Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) a crime boss that is also running for office but still wants his money back, also is his younger brother Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya) a truly merciless creature that kills and tortures without any sign of sympathy.

Veronica is living in a penthouse and has some things to sell but nowhere near the amount Harry stole, however, he did keep a notebook with detailed notes on how to do every job, including the next one that none of them can perform now but the target and money is still there. All that’s required are people that are willing to do it and have the incentive.

Steve McQueen as a filmmaker has never shied away from the tough subject matter. For his debut made Hunger, about IRA prisoners that slowly die due to a hunger strike, then made Shame about a spiraling sex addict and 12 Years a Slave about a free man taken into slavery. Widows is a solid premise that is actually based off a miniseries in the eighties, which McQueen, along with coscreenwriter Gillian Flynn (who also doesn’t shy away from the tough material) have taken the concept and modernized it as well as shifted the setting to the United States. Within his works, we are always given a variety of techniques, from wide still shots to a scene being played out in closeup and sequences of rapid editing. He also incorporates sound very skillfully, some scenes will play very quietly then there will be a loud bang to cut the peaceful mood, others there will be a continuous sound through to the scene to provide timing and texturing of the scene and mood.

Veronica’s and Harry’s penthouse is a slick modern all-white suite that looks out on the city. Also are most of her clothes (slick, modern and white). When she decides to descend into the world of crime by performing a heist there is the inclusion of some black items of clothing before wearing all black for the job itself. Not the most subtle filmmaking ever but effective is effective.

This is a heist movie. However there are still many variations to be had within a genre, recently I reviewed Oceans 8 and talked about how it had a graceful, smooth camera throughout. Such an approach is appropriate for that movie because it is very Hollywood, about witty talking characters and, glamorous outfits and has an upbeat tone. This is street level with, obvious brutal realities and things can go very wrong very fast. When they do the camera goes to shaky hand-held, this is so we feel like we are there in the midst of the running and the catastrophe.

Widows succeed because like any other genre it is not really about the subject matter but a framing. Godzilla isn’t about a monster but a catastrophe, Apocalypse Now isn’t really about the battles but the mentality of war itself and we are not invested in LOGAN for the action set pieces but the character in that situation. Little of the movie’s runtime is the heist itself, but before we go into it we learn who all the characters are and why they are doing this and what is at stake. It is a story about bold, beautiful, damaged and flawed characters dealing with the very difficult hand life has dealt them.

 

Review Halloween (2018) by Jonathan Evans

My god, this franchise is confusing. Ironic because the original movie is so a simple, and minimal with its story.

John Carpenter’s original Halloween is one of the essential watches for horror lovers and movie fans in general. It is the perfection of the slasher genre, with a killer that is pure evil, a simple but effective way of shooting it and a score that hooks itself deep in your brain. Yet at the end of the movie it seems like it was done but the success meant more had to be made and so they made seven more movies, then Rob Zombie told his version of the material with two movies and now we are here, forty years later from the original and ignoring all the middle material. But this is the third movie to be titled Halloween. Told you it was confusing.

Opening the movie are two British podcasters that host a show about killers, crimes and other such grim subject matter. They go to Smith’s Grove Rehabilitation Hospital where for forty years Michael Myers has been kept locked away from the rest of the world, never speaking a single word. One of them has something for Michael though, the mask he wore on his night of rampage. This sends the other inmates into a frenzy but Michael still stands there not saying a word.

Cutting then to the classic score we all know from this franchise and a rotten Jack-O-Lantern that slowly reforms back to life, a symbol of Michaels reawakening, the franchise and this whole gruesome affair.

Carpenter himself does not fill the directing chair this time around but he is back as the composer. Carpenter composed nearly all his movies and Halloween was arguably his best job. A dark theme that is like the pulsing of the heart that grips you in tension and then a movement that ignites fright. In recent years he has been more focused on his music and he is very good at it. Here he gets to do one of the things he does best, he doesn’t completely reinvent the theme or copy and paste it, it stays true to the core of the score and adds little things, like a power chord from a guitar and other layerings to deepen then experience, it’s a great score that has received an appropriate update.

Filling in the directors chair is David Gordon Green. He has a diverse filmography, nothing that would make someone point to him and say “He’s the man for this job!” but we’ve had plenty of surprises of directors taking on franchises and actually doing great things with them. He and cinematographer Michael Simmonds incorporate a few intricate long shots that build up the suspense well and he portrays the kills with loud screams and plenty of blood.

Whenever something becomes truly popular and others seek to replicate it and/or a franchise is kicked off there is a big risk of homogenization. We want to feel like this is the world and characters that we’re familiar with but not a color-by-numbers experience. This gets a little closer to it but luckily strikes the right balance of being its own thing while taking its cues from the original and also giving a few nods while it’s at it. An example of this is that a key image is a white mask Michael wears, there isn’t any true significance to the mask itself, it was chosen because it has blank features which reflect the character, in context Michael stole a mask while getting ready for his night of slaughter. Same for the boiler suit, he happened to cross paths with an unlucky worker, here he by chance kills another worker in a similar navy blue boiler suit, would he have taken a red one? Or not killed him if it was yellow?

The most original part of this entire movie is how it portrays Laurie Strode. She is now a grandmother, slightly estranged from her daughter and granddaughter, living in a fenced off house ready of anyone that comes looking for trouble. It’s not that unbelievable yet I can’t think of many other movies that have done this, so many characters in horror sequels seem to go back into normal life after the traumatic events. Laurie was just a regular teenage girl and for no real reason came face to face with her friends being killed and pure evil. Jamie Lee Curtis fills the role with badass authority, taking no nonsense while she loads her guns and fragility, clearly having to live her life in fear and paranoia.

This is a refocus of Michael Myers as an unstoppable force of nature. A slow monolith of death that will keep coming no matter what. This was the original intention and is what makes the character so endearing. But in the first movie he was twenty one years old, now he’s in his sixties, I have to question whether his slow pace is because he doesn’t need to rush or because he’s getting on in years. Another interesting touch is that Nick Castle is playing him again, he hasn’t done that since the first movie. His average height and build add to his inconspicuous nature and his smooth walk with an upright posture adds to the unsettling nature because he’s about to commit the most barbaric act. An extra touch is the prominent sound of his boots while walking, like the ticking clock of death, they sometimes abandon this when he needs to pop out of the shadows. I guess that would make him easier to find.

This is probably the best sequel that this great movie ever got (though there truly isn’t much heavy competition), it caters to the fans while invites new viewers in. But part of the enduring quality of the first movie was how it could show horrible acts but could be quiet and slow. This movie is more generic and loud. In terms of slasher horrors this could be much less subtle and more poorly made, for Halloween, it could be better but is worthy enough to have the name.

Rating: 3 stars

Review for The Laud of the Rings by Tanica Psalmist – Camden People’s Theatre

(4 / 5)

Josh Gardner’s unique story-telling production entails mix documentation and an anarchic approach to performance. Josh elaborates on privilege and migration through the use of absurd. A space where he isn’t afraid of breaking the fourth wall or going against theatre rules or maintaining his dry humour which not everyone gets but it seemed he purposely wanted to convey that aspect to his character. The Laud of the rings tells the tale of Josh wanting to save Europe by re-enacting Frodo’s journey to Mordor, travelling from Oxford to Istanbul dressed as a hobbit.

The Laud of the Rings is a captivating and provocative performance that follows desperate attempts to live out a fantasy world in a black wig, plastic feet and have an encounter with a Serbian border police officer, as reality and fiction collide in an epic re-make of The Lord of the Rings.

The production is very immersive, it became intriguing when he would climb into the audiences space to sit among them, get the audiences participation by choosing individually who to read out his scripts and jumping on to the stage to blow up a giant, plastic sphere with a noisy air compressor.

There’s episodes where Josh risks the use of being ‘disorganised throughout his performance’ and scatty with minor control on stage, especially as he leaves the theatre nowhere to been seen again, leaving the audience members no opportunity to properly applaud, some audience members went off to find him in the giant, plastic sphere rolling around outside.

Laud Of The Rings is slightly weird, funny and slightly unsettling. It can take a lot for you to laugh, grasp the concept of his character and relate to the emotions of his character sincerely. Josh for me is a man with a gift for deadpan humor, not knowing if he was being generally serious or not made his act original, as he wasn’t scared to be daring or challenging.

 

Review Podcast: 99% Invisible by Judi Hughes

I am a podcast fan. I listen to podcasts on long journeys, while I’m cooking dinner, while I’m gardening and to help me off to sleep. There is a world of fascinating knowledge and stories out there that I can’t get enough of. The first of these, recommended to me by my son, is the encyclopaedic purveyor of unusual facts, 99% Invisible. Produced in Oakland, California it is part of the Radiotopia network and whilst rooted in the USA, has a truly international outlook. I find it delightful.

If you visit their website, the ‘about’ section tells us that “99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.” Fascinating enough, but it’s much more than that. To date there are 325 episodes that you can download, beginning in 2010 and carrying on to the present, they have covered what I consider to be everyday wonders of the world. If you haven’t listened to any of them yet, you’re in for a treat. I wish I could start from Episode 1 again – in fact I may well do that because there are many that I would like to hear again.

Each episode begins with an introduction from the velvety voiced Roman Mars, with the inevitable but very important messages from their sponsors (independent means they need the advertising). “I’m Roman Mars……” and proceeds to tell us about some fascinating thing that we’d really never thought about but might just observe now, like the way that large buildings are designed to make people behave in certain ways – in airports for instance in Episode 126: Walk This Way, and Episode 93, which tells us why we should always use the revolving doors.

Then there are my all-time favourites: Episode 160 Perfect Security reveals that “in the entire history of the world, there was only one brief moment, lasting about 70 years, where you could put something under lock and key — a chest, a safe, your home — and have complete, unwavering certainty that no intruder could get to it.” The story of Bramah, Chubb and the lock controversy of 1851 unfolds. Episode 164 tells us how the discovery of Bakelite helped to make the awful practice of creating billiard balls from elephant tusks come to an end – did you know that by the mid-19th century, elephants were being slaughtered for their ivory at an alarming rate, just to keep up with the demand for high-end billiard balls – no more than eight balls could be made from a single elephant’s tusks. Closer to home is Episode 316 The Shipping Forecast featuring interviews with that reassuring voice of Peter Jefferson that anyone who listened to his dulcet tones late at night in will appreciate.

Wherever you get your podcasts try listening to 99% Invisible. It’s a whole new world. Check out their website: https://99percentinvisible.org.

By the way, they don’t like Trump, so all is safe in their hands.

 

Judi Hughes, 22 October 2018

Review First Man by Kevin Johnson

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is not what I thought it would be.

A film about the first man to walk on the moon, I expected a sort of ‘successful’ Apollo 13, but what we get instead is a psychological study of Neil Armstrong – test pilot, astronaut, engineer, father and husband- that makes Apollo 13 look ordinary by comparison.

It looks at the kind of man he was, what drove him, the sacrifices that he and others made, how he coped and what it all cost him in the end.

This is a slow-burn film, and at 141 minutes, quite a long one. At one point in the middle I must confess, I almost fell asleep, but I’m so glad I didn’t.

Damian Chazzelle has directed a masterpiece, using all the tricks of the trade, old and new. Handheld cameras, tight close ups, mixed in NASA footage, all give a cinema verite feel, making you experience the claustrophobia of the astronauts.

Right at the start you are taken into the cockpit of an X-15 rocket plane. Flown by Armstrong, it reaches the upper atmosphere and gives him a tantalising glimpse of space. All the flying scenes are done incredibly well, placing you right at the heart of the action.

Ryan Gosling as Neil, and Claire Foy as his wife Jane, make a great couple, and perhaps one of the reasons they were cast is that they act so well with just their eyes. Invaluable when so much is shot in close up.

We start to follow their lives as they go through the death of their two-year old daughter, Karen. Unable to express his grief, Neil applies for the Space Programme and is accepted. Moving to Houston and a fresh start, they befriend other astronauts and their wives, and we are taken through their rigorous training.

Tragedy strikes more than once, and with each friend Neil loses, he becomes more and more withdrawn from Jane and his two sons, and more focused on his work. Eventually he is given command of Apollo 11, the mission to the moon.

The landing itself gave me shivers. Starting slowly, Neil and Buzz Aldrin drift towards the target site only to find it covered in boulders. Taking manual control, the surface drifts closer and closer, the tension mounting with each moment, all aided by the superb musical score, leading to a crescendo as the craft touches down with only thirty seconds of fuel left.

It’s one of the best pieces of cinema I’ve ever seen.

After broadcasting to Earth the historic message “Houston…the Eagle has landed” the two embark on a moon walk, where Chazzelle, possibly using artistic licence, possibly not, creates such a simple, unexpected and emotional ending that it almost made me cry.

Chazelle shows what an incredible talent he is, someone who can subvert conventions with ease. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins a second Oscar.

This film is an amazing, slow, quiet, shattering experience. The best film of the year so far.

Kevin Johnson

 

Review of “The Seagull” a film version of Chekhov’s play by Roger Barrington

 

 

(4 / 5)

 

 

Anton Chekhov’s famous play, “The Seagull” is given an airing by a stellar cast, in a straightforward and faithful adaptation by director Michael Mayer.

Chekhov set out to write a  comedy, and much of the framework of the story bears witness to this. Many of the principal characters are victims of unrequited love. Konstantin loves Nina who loves Trigorin, who kind of loves Irina who certainly loves him back. Masha loves Konstantin but Medvedenko loves her. You get the picture? Maybe not!

Any film adaptation of a great play, is, to some degree, on a bit of a loser, because the unique intimacy of the stage and its relationship with the audience, is key in such a tight play as this.

Having said that, if you take the film on its own values, then Michael Mayer has done an accomplished job.

The strength of the movie lies in its actors.

Annette Benning as Irina, an actress on the decline – both guilty of love and tenderness, but, chronically self-absorbed, is perfectly cast.  Having just started her seventh decade, she still has the sexiness to be believable as a fading actress, who can still reel in a younger man, and a famous writer at that.

 

Saoirse Ronan, the talented Irish-American actress, whose name always causes me difficulty to pronounce, has the right balance of sensitivity and determination to make Nina a sympathetic heroine.

For me the pick of the female protagonists, (in a competitive field) is Elizabeth Moss as the increasingly dissolute Masha, who realises that she is alive but only physically.  You wish that she had more scenes because she manage to steal every one she is in.

 

Of the male actors, I liked Corey Stoll’s rather laid-back  Boris Trigorin. I have seen stage actors overplay this character, to the extent that he becomes rather annoying. There is a bit of Chekhov in Trigorin, the acknowledged leading writer in Russia, and there is also part of him in Konstantin, ( Billy Howle)- the writer trying to find himself and make his name.

Good support is offered by stalwart Brian Dennehy as Sorin, Irina’s dying brother, and Jon Tenney as Doctor Dorn, who recognises talent in Konstantin’s writing.

Besides the acting, the lighting and cinematography are really good. It manages to retain the level of intimacy that I talked about at the start of this review.

 

 

The final meeting of Konstantin and Nina, is enhanced by the lighting, and renders it a profoundly moving scene, which is exactly what is required.

One small gripe is that I didn’t think it necessary to be quite as explicit at the end. The viewer is left in no doubt what has happened, but the offstage gunshot in the staged version, followed by Dorn and Trigorin leaving to sort out the mess works better.

“The Seagull” is a worthy adaptation of a theatre classic, that allows an audience who can’t get to see it on stage, an admirable substitute.

County: USA

Genre: Drama, Adapted from a play

Running time: 99 minutes

Cert: 12A

The film was viewed at Chapter Screen 1.

 

Review BlacKkKlansman by Roger Barrington

 

(4.5 / 5)

Spike Lee’s latest joint, BlacKkKlansman is based upon the book of the same name by Ron Stallworth who relates his amazing experience as Colorado Spring’s first African-American police officer, and his infiltration of the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

At times hilarious, it never fails to be an engrossing and unbelievable story, even more so  as it is based upon real events.

Lee has reset the action to 1979 although in reality, they occurred seven years earlier.  With questionable fashions and afro hairstyles,  you can easily be mistaken for believing that you are watching a 70′ Blaxpoitation film.

 

 

 

Ron is at first assigned to the Records Department of the Colorado Spring P.D.  There he frequently encounters racial insults from his so-called colleagues, especially the out and out racist Andy Landers, (Frederick Weller), and consequently feels that he can be more purposefully employed undercover.

His initial assignment is to cover national civil rights leader Kwame Ture, (perhaps better known by his birth name, Stokely Carmichael), address at a local rally. There he meets Patrice who is the president of the black students’ union at Colorado College.

Later, Ron is horrified to learn that Ture who is being escorted back to his hotel post rally, had been threatened  by Landers, and Patrice sexually assaulted under the guise of police handling a situation.

Ron is then reassigned to the Intelligence Department where he notices an advertisement in a local newspaper  for recruiting new members to the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. It amazes me that a country that prides itself on individual freedom, has no “hate crime” legal definition that allows such an insidious organisation to be allowed to flourish in the 21st century.  Ron picks up the phone and amazes his colleagues in the room, by launching into a vitriolic tirade of abuse against black people. He is so convincing that he dupes the recruiter of his deeply engrained racialism. Ron states is ability to be so convincing stems from being fluent in both The King’s English and Jive.

The problem that lies ahead is how to deal with face to face encounters. Enter Flip Zimmerman, (Adam Driver) who trains himself to imitate Ron’s style of speaking and gradually ingratiates himself within the local chapter.

In order to expedite his membership, Ron phones David Duke, the KKK Grand Wizard. He so impresses Duke that they start a regular conversation over the telephone and the Grand Wizard, readily agrees to pass through Ron’s membership acceptance and promises to attend his ceremonial baptism into the Order.

 

 

 

Flip is Jewish and after the hatred of the Afro-American community, Antisemitism is the next important agenda for the KKK. Flip, through his involvement in the undercover assignment, for the first time becomes aware of his Jewish identity, and he too realises like Ron, that he is to some extent an outsider in the Land of the Free. A bond develops between the two of them as they infiltrate deeper and deeper into the KKK local chapter.

 

 

 

In many ways, Spike Lee’s film is one of contrasts. Kwame Ture and David Duke are both advocates of social reconstruction. Patrice doesn’t at first know that Ron is a cop, but, later, they both accept that their purpose is the same – to help their racial group emerge from the gutter of white dominance. However, Ron insists that it can only be achieved on the inside, exemplified by his role in the Colorado Springs P.D. and through his KKK infiltration, whilst Patrice believes it can only be obtained on the outside, through rallies, literature and other media instruments. When the real Ron is assigned to provide personal protection to David Duke at his fake counterpart’s baptism, (along with others), you have on the one hand, the KKK whooping it up and getting off watching D.W. Griffith’s technically brilliant but racially charged 1915 epic, “The Birth of a Nation”.  At the same time Jerome Turner, (Harry Belafonte), an elderly civil rights leader relates a story about Jesse Washington’s lynching in 1916 to an Afro-American gathering. But perhaps the most striking example of contrast is in the final shot, where an inverted Stars and Stripes slowly fades into black and white.

The casting is spot on. In particular, the two Ron Stallworths are outstanding. John David Washington as the real Ron is both immensely likable whilst being able to portray a steely determination in eradicating the evil of the KKK. Adam Driver as Flip, is, in my opinion, one of the best actors around at the moment. Check out his brilliant performance in the title role of Jim Jarmusch’s masterful 2016 movie”Paterson”.  His outbursts of racial tirades are superbly executed.

Spike Lee has an impressive portfolio of films that tackle social issues, (mostly against his own Afro-American community), behind him. “Malcolm X” (1992), “Inside Man”, (2006), “Get on the Bus”, (1996) among them, but BlacKkKlansman is the best film that he has directed for quite a while. Its lengthy 135 minutes running time passes by in a flash as the action and your interest never flags as you become enveloped within the two Ron’s infiltration. The film has received widespread acclaim and was awarded the Jury Grand Prize at this year’ Cannes Film Festival.

Lee keeps a controlled balance between moments of comedic brilliance and advocating a message of social injustice.

The KKK members come across as redneck dumbos who for all of their mental and racial inadequacies will shoot you in the head if you are Afro-American, Jewish, homosexual or any other minority group that doesn’t match up to their feeling of white supremacy.

David Duke, (Topher Grace) is a slightly different kettle of fish. His understanding of the situation is purely down to eugenics, in exactly the same way that members of the Nazi Government propagated their evil message. However, he doesn’t seem to have a personal hatred of Afro-Americans, borne out by his acceptance of the real Ron’s presence as his bodyguard, accepting his professionalism, and when he agrees for Ron to be photographed with him – something that our hero exploits to comedic effect.

For me, the final sequence that shows true life coverage of the  Unite the Right rally at Charlottesville, Virginia that occurred only a year ago is really hardhitting. This white supremacist rally, attended by David Duke, resulted in fierce clashes and the death of a counter-protestor in a vehicle ramming attack. The refusal of President Trump to solely single out the actions of the supremacists in a subsequent speech provides Lee to ram home the message of the natural association between far-right policy and racialism.

It is a salient reminder that the U.S., (and for that matter Britain) is a tinderbox waiting to explode and we ignore this message at our peril.

Country: USA

Genre: Biography; Crime; Comedy

Running time: 135 minutes

Certificate: 15 for bad language and racist dialogue and themes

The film was viewed at Chapter Screen 1 and is also widely available at nationwide cinemas throughout the country.

 

Roger Barrington