Movie Review: ‘Blindspotting’ is the most focused, revolutionary look at race in America
Director: Carlos López Estrada
Writers: Rafael Casal, Daveed Diggs
Stars: Rafael Casal, Daveed Diggs, Janina Gavankar, Jasmine Cephas Jone
Synopsis: While on probation, a black man begins to re-evaluate his relationship with his volatile best friend.
There is that old saying that goes “Before you judge someone, imagine walking a mile in their shoes.” I believe if we did that, we would understand the concerns that face so many within our communities and start to find solutions to these issues, whether its poverty, crime, race or issues with the police. I also believe another way to learn about these issues is to see them on the big screen and listen to different voices bring those concerns to life so we can find solutions. In the new film Blindspotting, director Carlos Lopez Estrada and actors, Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs (who also wrote the script) bring together a film that is the most focused, revolutionary film to look at social issues facing modern day America since Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing.
The film follows Collin (Diggs), a convicted felon that has three days left on his year-long parole sentence. Collin lives in Oakland and works with his lifelong best friend Miles (Casal) as movers for a moving truck company run by Collin’s ex-girlfriend Val (Janina Gavankar). While Collin is trying to say low key and wants his last three days of probation to go smoothly, it’s hard for him to do that because while Miles is his best friend, he has the potential to bring out the worst in both of them. One night after Collin drops off Miles at his house, Collin witnesses a police officer shoot an unarmed African American male literally next to the van while Collin is waiting for the light to turn green. From there on, the film tackles the impact that event can shake someone like Collin as well as the ramifications and toll it takes on the others in his life.
Blindspotting is very much a personal story for Casal and Diggs, not just because they wrote the film but because they are from the Oakland area. The city of Oakland feels just as much like a character in this film as the two leads do or like New York City does in Do the Right Thing. The reason why I mention that Spike Lee masterpiece in the same vein of this film is because they feel like two films cut from the same cloth. Both films focus on an African American male living in a world surrounded by people that he loves yet one event changes the fabric of who they are and what that community is. While Mookie’s event towards the end of the film was a singular event that brought the neighborhood to its knees and enraged, it feels that event, Radio Raheem’s death, is a precursor to what Collin sees in front of his very own eyes in this film, and what the other characters in Blindspotting talk about throughout the film. For Collin, this shooting is just one of many that have happened, becoming the new normal in his community and around the country, and all he can do is hope that it doesn’t happen to him, bringing a sense of daily fear that he carries within his daily life. There is a moment towards the end of the film, where Collin is going on his daily morning run, and his route, he passes by a cemetery, where he sees a flash of the man that he was gunned. But he doesn’t just see the man that was shoot, he sees dozens of other men and women that have killed too by police officers, standing in front of their graves, hundreds of lost souls. This makes the viewer look at those faces and think about the calamities our communities have had to face because of what could be just small things escalating to places they never should have gone to, and how it happens way to often that the numbers are rising and we haven’t done anything to stop it.
Diggs, who is known mostly for his role scene stealing role from the musical Hamilton, gets to show off that he is more than the fastest rapping actor on Broadway. Though there are elements of hip hop within the film, but I won’t get into those too much to avoid spoilers. He gets to show his real acting chops, both comedic and extremely dramatic, vast range that I never knew he had. And alongside Casal, whose performance as Miles is one of the best of the year so far and will for sure be one of the best new comers of the year for me at the end of the year, they have become my favorite on screen duo of the year so far.
While the two main leads of the film are driving force to see this film, it is also the directorial debut for Carlos Lopez Estrada, whose eye behind the camera is what brings his all together very nicely. His subtle style and detailed vision of making you feel like you are a part of this community makes you, the audience, feel like you are hanging out with a third, unseen friend of Collin and Miles. It’s a very confident directorial debut that know exactly what it wants to say and is focused on getting the audience where it needs to go without beating you over the head with its messages. In a lot of ways, Estrada’s Blindspotting is a quieter, better version of Boots Riley’s loud, bombastic film Sorry to Bother You. While Riley’s film is the one making the most noise around the internet, mostly because of its crazy third act, I would argue Blindspotting is the film Riley only wishes he could make. Blindspotting is a film that can be entertaining as well an immensely thought provoking and left me wanting to see more from Collin and Miles by the time the credits are rolling.
Overall Grade: A-
Check out our podcast review on Extra Film, coming soon!