Jungle
Blindspotting

Blindspotting

Movie
Director(s): 
Genre: 
In Theatres: 
Jul 27, 2018
Grade:
A+
Running Time: 
95 minutes

I’ve never felt more terrified, more vulnerable, and more in love than I have while experiencing Blindspotting. Written by life-long friends, Oaklanders, and poets Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, this film is a truly intoxicating and exhilarating event that took a decade for the duo to complete. Seeds planted and cared for, the fruit this tree bears is equal parts charm and intensity, humor and horror, real, surreal, and all heart.

We follow Collin (Diggs) during last three days of probation. We are the spectator to his struggle of staying out of trouble and making curfew for these final 72 hours until he can be (somewhat) free again. With his best friend Miles (Casal) he spends his days moving furniture and bemoaning the rapid gentrification of Oakland. The city is becoming an unrecognizable place where burger spots require you specify beef instead of vegan and transplants look at them as if they don’t belong. Easygoing Collin rolls with some of the punches, enjoying the $10 green juice at the corner store while Miles simmers in fear and anger at the thought of being seen as a colonizer in his own hood.

Their banter pops as Miles is always selling something with his poetic repartee while the quieter Collins makes observational, incisive comments as the wit flows between them. Being a buddy comedy their relationship is the foundation for everything that follows. The chemistry is key and can be a precarious balance. Finding a duo who can pull this off so flawlessly is rare. The relationship between Miles and Collin is so natural that if you didn’t know that they are friends you would begin to wonder.

That first night, Collin is witness to a police shooting. It haunts him and us through the film. He becomes victim to flashbacks, panic attacks, nightmares and other symptoms of PTSD. Directly after this we begin to see the schism between the way these two experience the world and the way the world reacts to each of them. Miles remains rather unaware of how this event is nesting in his friend’s psyche and it takes him a long time before he asks if Collin is ok.

On the Atlanta Film Festival red carpet for Blindspotting I asked Daveed Diggs about a previous comment he made stating this film is a “comedy in a world that won’t let it be one.” He expanded, “That was the way we approached making this film. In a lot of senses when you watch a buddy comedy, the only way that it is able to be one is that it ignores the world. You have to pretend Trump isn’t president. You have to pretend that any of these situations could happen and there not be a threat of police brutality, you have to make certain assumptions. You have to go along with that and I love movies like that, it’s no shade on movies like that necessarily, but the prompt of this film is what happens to a buddy comedy when you don’t ignore the realities of the world they live in?”

Despite the fact the duo began writing the film nearly a decade ago, it feels almost prescient in its timeliness. Unfortunately, the issues broached in the film are only becoming more widespread as simultaneously the awareness of their effects has increases. Blindspotting grapples with the heavy themes of gentrification, police brutality, gun violence, unfair depictions in media, and inequality in the justice system, yet it never feels stretched or stuffed. Rather than trying to provide a solution to all of these problems, it instead boils them down and allows us to see them through the different experiences of Miles and Collin. Their relationship strains under the tension and eventually explodes. However, by focusing on their relationship to the world, but also too each other it makes the macro easier to chew.

First time director Carlos López Estrada does an amazing job creating a sense of place with the opening scene of Oakland pre & post gentrification. The use of lighting, neon signs and street lights is dynamic and striking. While evoking some of the feel and look of Spike Lee, Estrada’s aesthetic is high specific and wonderful to see as we swap between real and surreal.

The addition of spoken word verses sprinkled throughout add drama and passion. The last scene is nearly all verse as Collin confronts the cop from earlier. The tension had the audience hanging on his every word and I held my breath to hear his. I’ve never felt more alive in a theater.

Maria Jackson
Review by Maria Jackson
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