Owing much to its impassioned artistry and racially charged themes, the indie dark comedy “Blindspotting” comes out swinging. Whatever your expectations are for this film, it exceeds them in every way possible. Its anger is offset with a clearer understanding, and the shrewd balance of organic humor with agonizing intensity left me rattled, shaking, and close to tears.
We’re introduced to Collin (Daveed Diggs), struggling to make it through his last few days of a one year probation after being released from prison. While he’s trying to straighten up and put his life back together, his best friend Miles (Rafael Casal) is hell bent on embracing a more exciting and dangerous lifestyle. The two men have been buddies since childhood, growing up on the same streets of Oakland, California. With the increasing gentrification of the neighborhood, everything they’ve known and loved their entire lives is being wiped away and replaced with outsiders. The men struggle with their own identities in the midst of change that neither of them asked for.
Longtime friends Diggs and Casal co-wrote the film and when paired with first-time feature director Carlos López Estrada, they make a dynamite team. Everything about this project is exciting, from its jolting energy to stylish cinematography. There are Oscar-caliber performances all around, and the spirited screenplay is filled with great humanity and humor. There’s something truly magical going on here because the film is a textbook example of the creative use of art as a social tool.
Heavy themes are definitely at play too, with hot button issues like racism, identity, police brutality, class, and stereotypes presented with a raw and brutal honesty. The film offers a challenging look at the power of race through a blistering critique of white privilege and the turbulent relationship between lifelong residents and culture clashes with the new hipsters taking over “their” city. The realism is unparalleled in a fresh and relevant way, and the film could prove to be a visual 2018 time capsule for viewers in the future. It’s timely, poignant, and uses incendiary humor to forcefully instigate a conversation that many would rather avoid having because there’s no easy answer.
And that’s where the film’s brilliance really shines. If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to experience real life from the point of view of those who are different from you and are struggling to get by, especially if you don’t live your life in the minority, then the mission is fully accomplished here. Things always look different depending on your perspective and by challenging all kinds of stereotypes, the film becomes an even more exceptional (and provocative) piece.
There are uncomfortable moments of discord that manifest in the form of disturbing nightmares or in jarring spurts of brutal violence. Collin and Miles often express their frustrations and fears by launching into spoken-word rap riffs that flow like urban poetry. The passionate creativity reaches new heights here, and nearly everything about the film works on an elevated level without ever feeling gimmicky or forced. It’s a film filled with big ideas, but none are overshadowed by the heart of the story: the intimate friendship and deep level of understanding between the two men.
“Blindspotting” is an emotionally charged work of art that will continue to disturb and challenge me in ways that I’ll never forget. I feel it will prove to be one of the greatest cinematic expressions of racial tension and tumultuous unrest for generations.