Blindspotting

Blindspotting ★★★★★

A staggeringly powerful film about the perceptions of racial identity, and the life changing impact that reality has on two friends from Oakland.

"The image is fundamentally ambiguous. People perceive a vase, or faces. But not both at the same time ... What did you come up for the double picture one .... Blindspotting ... Why? ... Becasue it is all about how you can look at something, and there can be another thing there that you aren't seeing, so you have a blindspot."

Director Carlos Estrada's Blindspotting was by far the most emotionally resonate film I have seen since 'Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri', with amazing performances in scenes that had me welling up with tears. The opening sequence uses a split screen which does an amazing job at establishing this setting in Oakland California. It shows how the culture there is quickly changing with a rising class divide.
Some examples include how poorer folks are depending on 'mom and pop' corner stores, compared to the new middle class/ 'hipster' folks moving in and shopping at places like Wholefoods and vegan burgers places. Also we see an actual physical change with older neighborhoods being demolished in favor of more upscale areas. But it also shows how sports serves as a source of unification, with celebrations for the Golden State Warriors becoming an NBA Dynasty, but also noting the Raiders who will soon be leaving for Vegas.

"You monsters got me feeling like a monster in my own town!"

The story follows Collin played by Daveed Diggs who only has three days left on his probation after being released from prison. We can see the emotional toll being locked up has had on him, which is beautifully visualized thru these dream sequences. Collin is very much an even tempered guy that knows how to keep his head down to stay out of trouble. A major theme that comes into play is racial profiling from the Oakland police department. Collin is making sure he does everything possible to stay out of trouble, but his best friend Miles played by Rafael Casal is not making that easy for him.

"You are a convicted felon, Mr. Hoskins. You are now that until proven otherwise. Prove otherwise at all times."

Miles basically looks and acts like the musician Macklemore. He is very hot tempered and outlandish with how he acts, and does not shy away from making a scene if that's what he wants to do. Also I must note their girlfriends in story played by Jasmine Jones and Janina Gavankar are smokin' hot. We get to hear how Miles and Collin feel about the changing landscape of their home town, as they work together for a moving company and see first hand how the new money is coming into town.

Collin still lives in special housing while on probation where he has to adhere to a curfew, and one night when he is driving home he witnesses a horrific act that will forever change him. While stopped at a red light a white cop played by Ethan Embry guns down a black man running from him in the back. This event begins to haunt Collin in his day to day life, and is a constant reminder that if he is not careful, he could also become a victim of this kind of senseless violence.

"If you could just get rid of all this hair ... It would almost look .... less blamable? ... (mockingly she responds) but it is my hair bra ... my identity bra ... (he mildly responds) it is"

A really interesting dynamic is how Collin's girlfriend also gives him a hard time about his perception. We come to understand that despite Miles being the one that is acting out, since Collin is black he is likely the one who will get blamed for any disturbances they are both involved in.

Spoilers....

In an amazing tonally diverse scene we see Collin see his girlfriend at work, and he runs into a guy that remembers the event that put him in jail. Despite Collin telling him no, the guy proceeds to tell his friend the story about how Collin and Miles beat the shit out of a guy who was being a dick, and make it sound like the most awesome thing ever. But for Collin and his girlfriend this was one of the most tragic life changing moments of their lives. And despite both Collin and Miles being involved, only Collin went to prison for it.

"You are a big black dude with braids in Oakland, no one is miss reading you Collin ... ya I know"

By far the most powerful scene of the movie comes after Miles gets called out for acting black at a hipster party and creates a scene. Miles vents his frustration that he feels pressured to change the way he is because of the changing culture of the city. He wishes he was black like Collin so people do not perceive him as 'the white guy', but at the same time he is blind to the fact that Collin feels like a target in his home city. The two actors did a brilliant job at emotionally conveying how they felt about their identities and friendship within this complicated issue, and the scene left me feeling numb. But the event that has the biggest long term influence on Miles when it comes to thinking about his choices, is when they find his girlfriend's daughter with his gun.

"But if someone points out the other picture to you, does that make it not a blindspot anymore? ... No, becasue you can't go against what your brain wants to see first"

The film delivers the most stunning shot I have seen in a movie this year, when Collin is running by a cemetery on a hill and envisions hundreds of black people standing in front of each grave, all of them likely senselessly killed due to the color of their skin. I personally believe this is a complicated subject involving many factors, but this is the message the film presents and it is damn effective at doing so.

The only flaw I have with the movie is the cop played by Embry has absolutely no character, and just stares like an idiot in ever scene he is in. There is an emotionally charged scene at the end where he comes face to face with Collin, and Collin gives him a piece of his mind. It is a difficult scene becasue in the moment Collin becomes the aggressor, and the cop cowardly only speaks after he has left the room to Miles. I get why Collin is so angry in the moment, but I just think if there could have been some kind of interaction involving the cop were he tried to apologize, and then let Collin have the final word could have brought the film up a whole additional level.

Blindspotting was an amazing film with realistic and emotional performances that shook me to my core. It is a movie I truly hope reaches a diverse audience, becasue I think its powerful understanding about the topic of race is an important one that could make a difference in our society.

Thanks for reading!
Happy movie watching.... SKOL!

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