I wanted to love this movie: it was a Spike Lee movie, it starred none other than Denzel Washington's son (among others), it was an amazing true story (a black man infiltrating the KKK: who'd have thought this up?), it got the Grand Prize at this year's Cannes film festival (and these things are hard to get) but, above all, it was a timely story. I don't think I have to elaborate on that last one.
The only doubts I had prior to watching the movie were, well, Spike Lee-related. Ever since his classic and culturally significant films of the late 80's and early 90's, Lee has been going off on his own little tangent with no executive in sight to challenge him. That is, unfortunately, the ransom of success, much in the same way Tarantino's latest efforts have become parodies of his previous works: both men have achieved such "cult" status that no one dares question any of their decisions anymore. And they slowly but surely end up thinking out loud rather than creating relevant art.
This is, in essence, what happened with BlacKkKlansman: the first few minutes are amazing and you feel there is a chance this film will single handedly get Trump out of office. The intro featuring Alec Baldwin as a buffoon white supremacist demagogue is perfect. The beginning of the film's actual story is great: the character is interesting, the setting is nice, all scenes are beautifully shot... sort of a clever homage to 70's blaxploitation movies (which it is) with a very modern message (which it clearly aims for).
Then, however, things start getting worse: the pacing of the movie slowly deteriorates, with too many obvious editing choices distorting its tone. You keep alternating between dramatic sequences that are both compelling and significant, and light-hearted, comedic moments that get keep getting you out of it. The film's overall running time - over 2 hours - doesn't help: I started checking the time halfway through, or rather wishing I could because I don't have a watch and taking my phone out would have shown. The rest of the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves, I didn't want to ruin the moment.
The sad consequence is this: the underlying message of the story, one of hope yet combativeness to keep moving forward in the fight against racism in America, gets so blatantly spelled out that it loses all the effect that the dramatic build-up had to give. Instead, it feels like Spike Lee using a story to tell his: the intent may be right, but the result is at best mediocre.
In art, intentions are not enough. Otherwise, I would be the new Van Gogh.