Review: “Blindspotting”

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America right now is undergoing a new wave of racial divide. Deny it all you want it’s a truth, ironically partially due to the country being split down the middle as to the existence of racism in the country and to what level. Many films have tried and succeeded to capture this this sentiment. Hell, “Sorry to Bother You” is one of the best examples in my opinion just a few weeks ago. But one film has come along recently that avoids taking the issue over the top and instead offers a stripped down approach to the subject that has critics talking. I am of course talking about “Blindspotting” which is the result of years of work and dedication by its stars to bring the story to life. If you’ve heard about this movie you know that many are praising it as a must see and timely film. So I took it upon myself to see what the buzz is all about and form my own opinion on the final product. Here is my review of “Blindspotting”.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT

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“Blindspotting” stars Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, who also wrote and produced the film, as Collin and Miles respectively, a pair of friends in modern day Oakland. Collin, who is black, is reaching the end of his one-year probation period after two years in prison for a violent act and works along side Miles, who is white, at a moving company where Collin’s ex-girlfriend Val (Janina Gavankar) also works. With barely three days left on his probation and on his way home for his required 11 p.m. curfew Collin witnesses a white cop (Ethan Embry) gun down a black man in cold blood which scars him for the final days of his probation. As Collin tries to reform himself to a better person he begins to realize the negative impact Miles, who has adopted the “gangster” personality including buying a gun illegally and wearing grills, has had on his life. A turn of events involving that same gun leads the two long-time friends into conflict. All the while Collin tries to come to grips with the horrifying act he witnessed leading to a pulse pounding finale where both friends must make peace with their own demons.

 

 

WHAT WORKED

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There have been A LOT of movies that have tackled the racial divide in America. As I’ve mentioned we’ve had several this year alone. “Blindspotting” to me though is the most brutally honest, straight forward and important of them all tackling many relevant issues beyond just the obvious police brutality story piece that kicks the film into high gear. There’s so much that goes on in this movie and yet everything is handled with great pacing and very smooth storytelling that builds to each moment flawlessly. Obvious issues like racism are approached in very creative and new ways that feel more honest and brutal than ever before. I know I gush on movies like this a lot, but I’ve never seen a film that tackles these themes quite so sincerely. Now you might think that this means “Blindspotting” only panders to those in the black community and the issues they face. Far from it actually. As a rare treat the movie also speaks directly to white people, but not in the way you’d think. It draws attention to cultural appropriation but also cultural identity of the white community especially with Miles who is a white man trying to be gangster and has to come to grips with his own personal identity flaws as a “poser”. This makes “Blindspotting” more than just a film to cater to the needs of the African Americans, it also balances relevant messages to the other side of the coin and neither approach feels over the top of pretentious. They just feel human.

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This is partially because the film balances its drama with effective comedy and levity thanks to spectacular performances by the film’s producers and writers Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal. Both actors turn in truly career making performances as things progress and we find that their individual struggles clash leading the friends on separate but related paths of self-reflection. I found these characters both relatable and amazingly down the earth. They feel real, like actual people off the streets, especially when we begin to dig below the surface to understand what makes them tick and how their individual experiences and their longing for acceptance in the world has shaped their actions and identities. I mean its spectacularly moving to see Casal delve into Miles’ longing to feel accepted in the black community but it’s equally as relatable to see Diggs completely lose himself in a black man realizing that society in general seems to be against him for no reason than an accident of birth. And yet both actors dish out dialogue that makes us chuckle and laugh and see the lighter side of such a complicated reality. I don’t think it can be overstated how rare it is to come across a film like this. It’s practically a perfect dramady that can drive you to madness and anger in one second and bring you back to earth with humor in the next without losing sight of what it has to say. It’s so well written and impeccably performed that “Blindspotting” takes its revelations beyond the simple setting of Oakland and creates an atmosphere and presentation that asks viewers to think beyond their initial interpretations and see outside their blind spots…thus the film’s very appropriate name.

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I also heavily enjoyed the artistic visual quality of “Blindspotting”. A lot of time a movie can be a great work of art with creative visuals and unique camera angles but its clear this was done to add a creative quality to the movie. With “Blindspotting” these elements feel natural and cohesive to the story presenting us with interesting visuals and thematic artistic choices that actually support the content rather than being there just for the sake of being quirky. For example during the shooting scene the actual event is shown to the viewer from the passenger seat of the truck so we only see the victim through the rear view mirror while the cop is right in front of us as if we were witnessing the event ourselves. This allows for maximum impact of that moment. Later Collin experiences an amazing dream scene that ties into many of the movie’s themes and several times in the movie hip hop and rap are used by both main characters to express themselves. There’s even one point where Collin admits that people will only listen to blacks when they are rapping because it’s more pleasant to their ears. It’s these creative choices that bring out the best in “Blindspotting” by showing us something familiar in a unique and memorable way. It leaves a mark not just because of the emotional weight of these moments in the film but because of the creative manner in which they are presented.

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However, it’s the film’s third act that truly owns everything the writers wanted to say. The final fifteen minutes of this movie are not to be missed as it brings the movie’s main conflicts full circle in mesmerizing fashion. I honestly found it near impossible to look away as I awaited the result of what was transpiring before me. It’s a spectacular finale that looks like it’s going to go one way and goes in several different directions instead with some of the best dialogue and tension I’ve seen in any film yet this year. It’s a moment that truly defines everything “Blindspotting” is trying to axccomplish but once again does it in a fashion that avoids too much self-importance hiding these revelations behind the thin vail of an important character moment that even as obvious as it seems in hindsight we never see coming until it actually happens. For me this is right there with the finale of “Infinity War” for the most shocking and satisfying final 15 minutes of film of 2018 so far. It’s just so well done, so well shot, so well scripted and acted that it makes the whole movie and that’s saying something when the project could have literally ended right before this scene and still have been a great final product. It’s an incredible finale to an incredible movie that has to be seen to be truly appreciated.

 

 

WHAT DIDN’T WORK

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It’s extremely rare that I have so little to say about a film in my negatives. For me almost everything about “Blindspotting” worked. It’s one flaw is that it may be a bit heavy handed to the wrong viewer. As you can tell from my positives on the film this wasn’t a problem for me, but I’d be lying if I didn’t understand where others would find this to be a glaring issue with the product. There’s room for criticism to call it biased against whites or even anti-police and while I’d disagree with these sentiments greatly it’s on the director and writers that these doors were even left open and there are admittedly a few small details and one scene in particular close to the finale that try to drive home the cops versus blacks narrative maybe a little harder than it had to.

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If you ask me personally I’m not completely sure there’s a way this film could have been softened to avoid these accusations and it may more be an issue ingrained in American culture than anything else. To play devils advocate there are ways to share the messages this film sought to present without taking things to such an extreme level. Would this have compromised the final product we will never know, but I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t understand if someone found this movie to be a certain kind of biased. I think it’s a very personal decision how one feels about this movie. Maybe “Blindspotting” could have softened the blow a little bit or further explored the issues that divide the races in America without so much focus on the police violence. But personally I’m not sure it would have made for a better film. There’s enough here to counteract any negativity like that thanks to smart writing and the openminded approach of a pair of writers from each race who made an honest attempt to represent the struggles of both skin colors to identify with each other rather than simply putting the blind focus on a single race to drive home the story. In the end the errors in “Blindspotting” are, to me at least, some of the most subjective I’ve ever seen in a movie. You’re either going to love it for what it has to say or you’re going to think it says too much. It’s all how you look at it which, we some to learn, is the whole idea behind “blindspotting” as a concept anyway.

 

 

 

CONCLUSION

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While I expected “Blindspotting” to be good I have to admit I didn’t quite expect it to be this good. For a film that says as much as this movie does I was surprised that not only did it resonate without feeling too preachy is also added in great humor to level things out. The bond between the real life best friends who wrote, produced and star in this film is tremendously believable and the conflicts don’t stray away from some very difficult and very important cultural revelations we all need to see and understand. “Blindspotting” is a rare treat of a film that’s both fun and important in all the best ways trusting the audience to understand and appreciate its deeper concepts while also being unafraid to tackle these themes head on. It doesn’t vilify or victimize whites or blacks but instead explores the complex issues that divide and unite us all. It’s timely, it’s engaging, it’s not overly long and it’s incredibly well written and acted. It’s only flaw is that it still leaves a lot of what it has to say open for interpretations meaning this is a film that is truly subjective in how significant and important it really is. “Blindspotting” will only be a bad film to those with their blinders on and for me I was all in. I personally think it will go down as one of the most important movies of 2018.

 

 

GRADE: 5-stars4

 

 

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