BLINDSPOTTING

Like I said in my Mission: Impossible: Fallout review, a lot of different genres (in that case, action films) get panned for quite unfair reasons. For example, a comedy and a horror film strive to do two completely different things and make you feel two polar opposite emotions. Sometimes filmmakers combine those elements to elicit different experiences from you, depending on how you take the material. As I stated there, drama films are capable of being just as terrible as action schlock. It’s all about how well you handle the material and the story you’re trying to tell. 

Blindspotting follows Collin (Daveed Diggs), a black convict with only three days left on his parole. Living in a halfway house and working for a moving company, he spends most of his time with his lifelong friend Miles (Rafael Casal), a white man. While Collin tries his best to stay on the straight and narrow for the next three days, Miles’ volatile nature keeps getting him into trouble. Not only this, but Collin witnessed the fatal shooting of a black man by a white police officer, which has devastating effects on his psyche, his outlook on life, and his relationship with Miles.

Drama is all about capturing real human experiences, and just like anybody, I love stories about real human experiences. However, I hate melodrama and the sense of being manipulated by the filmmaker. Sure, films are meant to elicit emotion and filmmakers do manipulate you (in a way) in order to get you to feel something. With co-stars Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal writing the screenplay based on their own experiences growing up together, Blindspotting is anything but phony. They wrote the film over nine years and it completely shows in their dialogue, characters arcs, and interactions with each other. They’re both wonderful, especially together, where it really feels like a couple of close friends hanging out, but also going through some tough times. The emotion is raw and tense, but never feels overbearing. That could be because of a heavy dose of hilarious comedy throughout, most of it from their natural chemistry. I’ve never seen Daveed Diggs or Rafael Casal (his first feature film performance) in anything else before, but they were both just incredible. I especially loved Casal, who got to display a lot of range from boisterous, to threatening, and all the way down to a broken man.

All of the characters just feel so real and authentic, like these people were just plucked out of Diggs and Casal’s life and represented as who they are on screen. Perhaps it felt that way since there aren’t really any big name stars. Diggs and Casal aren’t the only actors to knock it out of the park, but also Janina Gavankar, Tisha Campbell-Martin, and Ethan Embry in supporting, yet important, roles. Every character is a representation of the world they live in and shown to be a product of their environment. The big theme of the film (if it wasn’t obvious) is about black-white race relations in the United States. Diggs and Casal clearly have a lot to say about gentrification, police brutality, gangsta culture, and wondering if you can truly make it in a society that you feel is against you. The beautiful part is? It’s not heavy handed and is just sprinkled throughout the film, filling out the environment around the characters. That surrounding environment in Oakland, California feels just as human as the characters as well, especially with how the filmmakers display said gentrification. Modern 21st century homes sandwiched in between old, classic houses. Kale smoothies being sold in ghetto gas stations. The gentrification is treated seriously, but there’s also some funny satire that comes out of it. You can really feel the effects that this changing environment is having on our characters.

The strong, natural screenplay of course made the film engaging, but for a screenplay that’s mostly about two guys going about their lives, it’s also visually arresting. Director Carlos López Estrada makes his feature film debut here and it’s very impressive. López Estrada comes from a music video and commercial background and the film sometimes feels that way. Normally saying a film “feels like a music video” is a detriment, but not here. There’s so much energy in the direction and editing, all coupled with some very striking and surreal images from cinematographer Robby Baumgartner. Music is also a big element to the film and the characters, as they freestyle rap in their free time throughout. This makes for some fun characters building, but also pays off in huge, surprisingly suspenseful ways. As the effects of the environment and his experiences weigh on him more and more, Collin has some horrifying dreams and hallucinations, showing that no matter how good he may try to be, he’ll always be the same person in the same place. Just like real life, there are ups and downs. Happy moments and sad moments. López Estrada handles all tones beautifully, building some of the most suspenseful scenes in a film all year, and then making us crack up with laughter in the next. 

Blindspotting is just one of those films that’s just the full package. It has a tight, natural script with stellar, believable performances, all with stylish and tense direction to back it up. It’s flawless in practically every single department, capturing my attention and adoration all the way up until the end credits. It’s this deft handling of authentic character drama, natural comedy, and heavy themes that makes this such a special film, and one that I feel will be talked about for decades to come. It has a lot to say, but everything it has to say comes from a place of raw honesty and real-life situations. It’s not preachy. It’s not heavy handed. It’s just real life.

10/10

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