Saturday, 25 August 2018

Blindspotting



Wow!

The third African-American-themed indie film in this series is the only one to get four stars. Unlike the other two, it has the feel of a film-festival classic. Among the features that separate it from the previous two films: Blindspotting is raw, it’s in-your-face, it’s unpredictable and it’s unnerving in all the right ways in order to bring its profound messages home (Sorry to Bother You, by way of contrast, is often unnerving in the wrong ways). Like the other two films, Blindspotting is labelled a comedy because it has a few humorous scenes and a humorous edge. In my opinion, being funny does not make a film a comedy, at least not when it is clearly a dark and sometimes violent drama (although an argument could be made that it’s a musical: there’s a lot of rapping going on, no doubt because the lead actor is a well-known rapper, playing on stage in Hamilton). 

Blindspotting was directed by Carlos L√≥pez Estrada (his first feature film) and written by Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal (over a period of nine years), the actors playing the two protagonists, Colin and Miles. The film takes place in Oakland, over a period of three-plus days, and focuses on the fact that these are the final three days of Colin’s year-long probation. As we see in the opening scene, which involves a lot of guns (in a funny but scary way), Colin has not had an easy time sticking to the rules of his probation and it will obviously be a major challenge for him to survive these last three days without being nabbed for a parole violation and sent back to prison.

Colin and Miles work together for a small moving company, which is managed by Val (Janina Vanankar), Colin’s ex-girlfriend. Miles is a loose cannon, so Colin is the driver and takes charge of the moves. One late evening, driving the truck back to the office alone, Colin witnesses an unarmed black man being shot in the back by a police officer (played by Ethan Embry), an event which will haunt him every moment of these three days. Then he witnesses two more events involving Miles (one in the home of Miles and Miles’s partner, Ashley (Jasmine Cephas Jones)) that will haunt him even more, sending him into stress-overload and a very dark place.

Blindspotting addresses many themes, including guns, police and racism (just like BlacKkKlansman), but it uses the friendship between Colin and Miles (one black, the other white) to tackle unique themes like gentrification, cultural appropriation and the trials of growing up in a poor urban neighbourhood (not to mention our blind spots), and never delivers any of its messages in a heavy-handed way (as the previous two films often do). But what really makes the film special is the way it treats every character with empathy and compassion. This is aided by the fact that the lead actors are lifelong friends who grew up in Oakland, just like the protagonists. 

Blindspotting features wonderful natural acting, excellent cinematography, a good score and spot-on writing. Despite all the rapping (I’m not a fan), this original and insightful film gets a solid ****. My mug is up for another top-fifteen entry. 

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