And finally to BlackKklansman.

I haven’t seen very much of Spike Lee’s work. I think I’ve been in the room when either She’s Gotta Have It or Do The Right Thing was on, but I suppose aged about 16, I didn’t really think that the issues he was documenting had anything to do with me. I do remember seeing and enjoying Mo’ Better Blues, but that’s a pretty small and fairly unrepresentative sampling. Today, I see his work as being far more relevant.

Even without the urgent social commentary, there’s a pretty juicy set-up here. It’s the mid-1970s and rookie black cop Ron Stallworth gets it into his head to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan division. In furtherance of this goal, he will need to team up with a white cop who can play Ron Stallworth in person. All based on a true story of course – this is Oscar season after all.

After a bonkers opening in which Alec Baldwin has too much fun as a mouth-foaming white supremacist I guess motivational speaker, Lee and his fellow writers sketch in Stallworth’s entry into the Colorado Springs Police Department, interregnum in the records room and graduation to intelligence work with admirable economy. Stallworth meets and begins a relationship with student civil rights activist and teams up with Flip Zimmerman who will become his pale-skinned alter-ego.

A lot of this looks pretty cliched on the page. Zimmerman must think quickly to protect his cover from the probing of the dumb but instinctive red neck when he asks too many questions of the more intellectual, but more trusting leader. And towards the end, when Stallworth is working as David Duke’s security detail, at the same time as Zimmerman’s cover is falling apart, and while simultaneously Stallworth’s girlfriend is the intended victim of a bomb attack, it becomes near-ludicrous. Remarkably, the subplot about Stallworth having to protect Duke does seem to be true, even though most of the rest is exaggerated, rearranged or just made-up from whole cloth.

However, after that demented opening, Lee and the actors keep it grounded and play it for a great deal of verisimilitude. John David (son-of Denzel) Washington is quietly compelling as Stallworth, but it’s the addition of a Jewish heritage to Adam Driver’s Zimmerman that gives real depth to the white side of the story. At the end, it’s all smiles and air-punching as Duke is humiliated and ally white cops drag racist white cops away to jail. But Lee is too smart and too political a filmmaker to leave us on that, instead cutting in horrifying footage from protests and riots in 2017.

Again, on the page this seems clumsy, even crass, but the progression is so perfectly calculated and the clips chosen so shockingly confronting that it can’t help but be effective – more effective I thought than the seemingly far more elegant and complex machinations of Vice. To be successful, BlackKklansman needed to do a great many things at once. It needed to tell the story of these people in this situation. It needed to be an exciting and suspenseful thriller. And it needed to connect the experiences of America 45 years ago to the realities of America today. It’s hugely to the film’s credit that it largely achieved all three of these. I think I would have preferred it to feel a little less like a suspense thriller in the middle, but I can’t deny the powerful work done by both leads and the effectiveness of that hammer-blow ending.