As the old adage goes “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Something that rings true in BlacKkKlansman, a film that captures a specific time in our not so distant past, yet feels all too real in today’s world. We unfortunately still have to deal with hate, racism and bigotry today, and the shadows of the past still loom large.
One of those shadows as highlighted in the film is the Ku Klux Klan. It can be hard enough to be witness to these people as the viewer, let alone walk among them. Which is the tough task handed to Detective Philip “Flip” Zimmerman. A role somberly and deftly performed by Adam Driver.
Driver packs a lot of substance into the supporting role of Flip. It is not a flashy role, but Driver gives us all what we need in his subtlety. Flip finds himself in this spot when tapped by Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) to infiltrate the local chapter of the KKK, and be his eyes and ears as a white man. As a black man, this is an important mission to Ron, but it is also dangerous ground for Flip as well – who is Jewish and just as hated by this group of men.
This aspect of Flip’s character is masterfully handled by Driver. At first Flip is almost ambivalent about his heritage, yet this comes to a head in a violent early confrontation when one member is a little too suspicious.
Later in a scene with Ron, as they go over their growing amount of information, Flip gets contemplative over the fact that he is Jewish. It’s a small and quiet moment, but Driver gives us all that we need and the emotion is real.
Flipping the newly issued Klan card in his hand, Flip tells Ron, or more-so himself, how this part of his identity has been heavy on his mind. At first in a bit of a sarcastic tone, he recounts how being Jewish was never a big part of his life, and how he never thought about it much at all. Then Driver truly comes to form as he pauses, and tightens his mouth to go on and say how now he thinks about it all the time and pondering what that means.
It is a moment of vulnerability and Driver gives so much weight to it. Not in many words, but in his face which says all that we need to know.
Driver’s performance here is strong, but also important. And I believe his work here is more than deserving of that golden statute. Attention has often in the past gone to actors who “went there”, often in transformation, or going to an uncomfortable place few viewers can think of in order to portray their character. Adam Driver in the act of pulling a white hood over his head – which is one of the most recognizable symbols of hate – we know does just that.
In BlacKkKlansman Driver delivers a performance rich in nuance and subtlety, that makes you reflect and connect with his character. A Best Supporting Actor walks the line between playing off their respective leads and, when done right with a gifted actor such as Driver, stealing the spotlight in a way that can’t be dismissed.
His role here as Flip, which personifies the thoughts and feelings many of us have in today’s tumultuous world, deserves some recognition. Driver has a bevy of roles that stick with you long after the film is over, and he flawlessly embodies every role he steps into as he does here. Something that Academy voters can’t be oblivious to. This may be Adam Driver’s first Oscar nomination, but I know that it definitely will not be his last.