The Hate U Give offers powerful, relevant message about police violence

Police violence against African-Americans is a hotly debated and controversial topic in the United States. George Tillman Jr.’s movie The Hate U Give, based on the bestselling book, tackles that issue head on. It has been a good year for films that garner a political message with movies like BlacKkKlansman, and this is another worthy addition to the genre.

On the surface, it seems like just another teen drama with a slight twist to it: one that panders to teenagers to make box office money. This could not be farther from the truth. The Hate U Give centers around Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg), a teenage girl who witnesses the shooting of her childhood friend by a police officer when they were pulled over just for switching lanes without a signal. This causes contention around the community, similar to what occurred in Ferguson, Missouri with the shooting of Michael Brown Jr. The film chronicles Starr’s journey as she finds her voice and all the troubles that come with it, such as fitting in with her majority white high school and avoiding the drug dealers who want to prevent her from speaking out.

The best thing I can possibly say about The Hate U Give is that it will inspire viewers to take action. By the end of the film, anybody who received the message will want to storm out of the theater and participate in a local march. Many messages involving racism reverberate throughout this movie. One of the more relevant ones is a comment on the white people who like to act like they are black to look cool, but then disrespect the culture on their spare time. More people like this exist than one would believe, and the movie takes the time to throw some much-needed shade towards them.

The main message of the film, however, is how the public opinion on police violence is that the policeman was just doing his job despite having killed an unarmed man for no good reason. Would that same policeman have done the same thing if it was a white man? These are the questions that this film needed to ask and it definitely succeeds in asking them. It then asks the audience to examine the double standard that plagues African-Americans on the daily.

The shining stars of the film acting-wise are definitely Stenberg as the lead, who really gives the audience an insight into the trauma that one goes through when their friend is murdered right in front of them, and Russell Hornsby as Stenberg’s father, who has multiple stirring monologues that are impeccably well-delivered.

Problems with the film are relatively minimal, but they still surface, and nearly all of them have to do with the final twenty minutes. Without completely spoiling the movie, the ending felt a little sugarcoated given the gritty nature of the rest of the film. It tries to tie all the plotlines together with a bow and claims that love will prevail, but I feel the movie would have had an even bigger impact if it had left us with some of the previous, more hard-hitting messages.

Another slight flaw was a particularly cheesy scene in the end involving the main character’s little brother that I will not get into for spoiler reasons. However, the film came together well other than that, and none of these flaws were enough to degrade the powerful message that the film exhibits in the first and second acts.

The Hate U Give is definitely worth a watch, and will most likely change your perspective on the issue of police violence. This is Tillman’s best film so far, and promises great things in the future for Stenberg.

The Hate U Give will be in theaters everywhere on October 19.

-by Joel Alexander

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Spike Lee makes a powerful political statement with BlacKkKlansman: a modern-day masterwork

Acclaimed writer/director Spike Lee has returned with his newest joint and he is back with a vengeance, for BlacKkKlansman is a force to be reckoned with. Lee’s film is a true story about a black man named Ron Stallworth (played by John David Washington) who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan. Sound ridiculous? It is. This is a movie that, conceptually, shouldn’t work, but somehow it is one of the most enthralling, hilarious, and powerful films of the year.

When it comes to politics, Lee is no stranger: in BlacKkKlansman he takes many controversial issues head on such as police brutality, the state of the nation, and the potential racism of the current president. He takes on all of these issues magnificently in a 1970s setting, which furthermore enforces his point that not much has changed between then and now. One would think that a historical drama about the KKK would be an exploration into history, but that is not what the movie has in store. Lee wants to shine a mirror up to every American citizen and ask them, “Are you content with the current state of society?”

Despite all of the politics, Lee still crafts a thrilling and fun ride throughout, and actually makes this one of the funniest films of the past couple months. Much of that humor is executed so well because of Adam Driver (Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi), who plays the white man that physically appears in the form of Ron Stallworth at the Klan rallies. Driver is easily the standout in this film: he shows a spectrum of emotional depth, becomes one of the most likeable characters, and is at the center of the most complex and nail-biting scenes. Washington also shines as the lead role; he talks quite a bit like his all-too-famous father (Denzel), but also shows that he is an excellent actor in his own right.

One detail about BlacKkKlansman that I truly did not expect going in, was that I would get to know these Klan members. Lee portrays them not as truly evil people, but as normal citizens that just happen to have a severely misguided look at society. The film in no way supports these hateful people, but it takes the same approach that Ron Stallworth does when looking at the Klan: fascinated by what drives them and how they became to think the way they do.

The flaws this movie contains are quite minimal. Only small things stood out, such as a rally scene in the beginning that lasted about a minute too long (but it was so well shot that I didn’t mind), or the fact that I could, for the most part, tell which events were true and which weren’t (but the script was so well written that, again, I didn’t mind). The only outstanding flaw seemed to be that Stallworth himself was not given much background, but even this was pushed under the surface by the complexity of the events happening on screen.

BlacKkKlansman is important. Not everybody will agree with the political message it sends, but it is still one heck of a roller-coaster ride from beginning to end. It is funny, timely, well-acted, emotional, and a whole bunch of other qualities that Oscar voters should eat right up.

At the end of the movie, despite having laughed through the majority of it, nearly all of the audience in my theater was crying. That’s the type of impact that the message of BlacKkKlansman creates.

BlacKkKlansman is is in theaters everywhere now and it is rated R for language throughout, including racial epithets, and for disturbing/violent material and some sexual references.

-by Joel Alexander