Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Collin (Daveed Diggs) is three days shy of ending his parole. He works with his life long friend Miles (Rafael Casal) for a moving company and is doing his best to stay out of trouble with the law. But when he witnesses a horrific event, he begins to re-evaluate his life and his friendship with Miles.
I am not sure how to properly describe how I feel about Blindspotting hours after watching it. I went in almost totally blind, and it knocked me right on my ass by the time the credits rolled. Director Carlos López Estrada, in his first feature-length Film, has crafted a visceral portrait of Oakland and its inhabitants. He has his finger on the pulse right from the start and captures every frame as authentic and raw as possible. The Film has a very lived in quality to it, giving off an aura that suggests the furthest thing from Hollywood inspired fantasy. The editing by Gabriel Fleming adds to this sense of realism, and really magnifies and crystalizes the vivid look Estrada is going for.
But the Film’s visuals only exist because of the unique and brilliant Screenplay by Diggs and Casal. The longtime real-life friends took many, many years to write and hone their screenplay, and it pays off beautifully here. The Film is unflinching in its depiction of race, class, gentrification and brutal violence. All of these themes, along with a heightened and all too real sense of toxic masculinity, propel Blindspotting through its 95-minute running time. Their Script cracks right into the heart of these issues, making for some of the most intense and stressful situations put to celluloid this year. I cannot even begin to count how many times I was paralyzed in my seat, absolutely terrified of what happens next.
But the rather incredible thing about Blindspotting is how it combines humour and rap with these incredibly troubling themes. Both of those elements may sound baffling when you read them on paper, but Diggs and Casal blend them into their Script seamlessly. Their witty banter together and with the wonderful Supporting Cast is genuine and often laugh-out-loud hilarious. They have a keen sense of humour about even the most mundane things and know exactly when to use it (including a recurring joke about $10 kale smoothies). Much the same goes for their use of rap lyrics. They work them in initially as a playful bit of rhyming and interaction between characters, before using them to carve a message into the most vivid and anxiety-inducing scenes. Both elements have a drastic effect on the Film, changing the tone sharply and rapidly. They are effective in most cases, but in others, they take away from the greater message the pair are trying to get at.
Blindspotting shook me right through to my bones. This is bold, gritty and powerful Filmmaking on a level we do not see nearly often enough. Diggs and Casal are absolutely magnificent on-screen, whether they are working off each other, the Supporting Cast or on their own. And their work on the Screenplay is simply astounding. The radical tonal shifts may not work as intended in all cases, but if you are a lover of cinema, then Blindspotting is essential 2018 viewing.
VVS Films release BLINDSPOTTING in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal on Friday, July 27, 2018 and across Canada later this August.