Blindspotting is an unflinching look at life within Oakland, the pain as well as the beauty within it. A great culture that is loaded with style and super hard work ethic displayed by all souls living below or around the poverty line. The film is written by and stars two life long friends, Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs (of Hamilton fame). Together with Carlos López Estrada at the helm they have crafted an unforgettable film loaded with a perfect blend of sugar and spice. This film will make you laugh, hurt your feelings by telling harsh truths and if you let it in, and elevate your soul to the point of tears. It feels like a Spike Lee film at times and that is not a slight towards it at all, it is merely me pointing out that the film stretches reality at times to an almost absurd degree to make a powerfully unforgettable message come across crystal clear. The ultimate magic trick Blindspotting pulls is its ability to tackle current issues of police brutality, gentrification and racism without losing it’s footing nor beating you over head to make its point.
Collin (Diggs), a young black man, has 3 days left on his parole, but his rowdy best pal Miles, a young white man, can’t seem to stop being so intense. Miles buys a gun which plays a very important role throughout the entirety of the film. Miles’ excuse for the purchase: to protect his family in case someone breaks in his place at 2 am. Collin is obviously upset by this and that’s just the beginning of his horrible evening. Shortly after dropping off Miles, Collin witnesses a police officer (Ethan Embry) shoot a man. The two lock eyes and share a horrible intimacy. This on top of his stress over his parole/probation is just too much and sends him into a traumatic state, a PTSD of sorts that bubbles throughout the film.
His nightmares are bone chilling. One of them involving a courtroom scene and the vomiting of bullets with unravel you worse than any horror film. You damn near want to shout at the screen for it to end. Even when Collin tries his best to shake it off, the visions still haunt him. Can Collin shake these demons before he explodes or will he succumb to them and become another statistic? All of this builds to a pitch perfect climax that I would love to expand upon but will not, for I feel you need to witness this flawless finale without the input of any blogger or film critic. Try to go in (cough) blind if you can, for not only is it a masterful way to finish this yarn that covers so many bases splendidly, it is the way this piece has to end. It has to come across this way. An earned chunk of storytelling that made my heart race because it is an actor screaming for an entire race/group/community ripped about by bad police. He becomes their voice and I hope people hear it, no, feel it.
The performances in Blindspotting are terrific from all players involved. Diggs is an outstanding leading man delivering on all fronts. He has a lot of work on his plate and he simply knocks it out the park. I do feel however the real fire of the piece is Rafael Casal as Miles. Miles represents so much in this film it’s not even funny. He is a real deal best friend to Collin. He is also a white dude that grew up in the hood, so the swagger is real. He isn't playing a part or more to the point: trying to act black. That making something out of nothing Bay Area hustle is on full display with him as well as seen in the glorious salon scene and his sales pitch of a $300 sailboat. He’s charismatic, dangerous and extremely loyal to Collin. This combination mixes well with the fact that he would get overlooked in crimes while anyone that was black in his same position would get hurt or killed. Sad but all too true and Blindspotting tackles this head on, again without beating you into submission about it. Rafael is incredible in this film and is the key to making it all click into place. Gentrification exposes its fangs several times in the film and falls on Miles’ lap at one point which proves to be quite perilous to those who doubt his credibility. A stand out performance in a film loaded with them.
Oakland on screen has been a thing lately and why not? All chunks of this nation need their shot at cinematic glory because you need to see how others operate. Get out of your bubble and learn a new slang word for heaven's sake. I’m not saying wield this word, I’m just saying to learn it. Blindspotting is a splash of California that is now burned into my brain like Tangerine or even Chinatown. It represents Oakland in incredible fashion while never losing sight of the pain within it as well. That pain of an old home being gutted, a home of a family that lived there for generations, losing history. That pain of police cutting lives short over some bullshit, destroying and traumatizing families. Carlos López Estrada and his pair of misfits have made a great film that can be a voice for the voiceless. Powerful and too timely for words, I highly recommend this piece to any and all movie goers. This would pair extremely well with the film La Haine and the TV Show Atlanta.