LIONSGATE (2018)

 

Director: Carlos López Estrada

 

Starring: Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal, Janina Gavankar, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Ethan Embry, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Wayne Knight

2018 has been a hard-hitting year in regards to movies centering on racial and social injustice. BlacKkKlansman attacked the KKK and police attitudes towards black people – as too did the splendid Widows - Sorry to Bother You swiped at the idea that “white voices” and mannerisms will get you ahead in the world and Black Panther created a symbol. Something that binds them all is the fact that ‘the struggle is real’ and Carlos López Estrada’s Blindspotting is another fine movie to add to that growing list.

Convicted criminal Collin (Diggs) just needs to stay out of trouble to make it through his final three days of probation. However, when he witnesses a white cop gun down an unarmed black man he and his childhood best friend Miles (Casal) struggle with their individuality, racial bias, and the gentrification of their hometown, Oakland.

 

A buddy-comedy-slash-(very) hard-hitting hybrid, Blindspotting is a controlled, tense slice of social commentary that remains fresh and never sanctimonious. A movie ten years in the making from the minds of its stars Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal (who also co-wrote and produce here), Blindspotting’s take on the burning racial issues of our time, as well as the fear that change can bring, may never have felt more relevant – whether that’s the case or not, it remains a bloody good movie.

 

Diggs’ cool and collected Collin is the perfect contrast to Casal’s fiery, grill-mouthed Miles and how they interact within the movie is superb. Natural and edgy all at once, the two are electric together on screen – which is pretty ideal as the movie focuses solely on them over the three-day period. Janina Gavankar provides a stabilising and sweet presence as Val (Collin’s ex), as too does Jasmine Cephas Jones, and DENNIS F-ING’ NEDRY turns up too (AKA Wayne Knight). But this is Collin and Miles’ story. The excitement of their exuberant kinship is at odds with the sheer possibility that Miles’ recklessness could spell huge trouble for Collin. One particular scene, including Miles’ young son and a gun, provided the perfect example of this and was, without doubt, one of the more nerve-wracking scenes I’ve watched in 2018. That’s where the movie excels, in its ability to flip the switch of its tone so effortlessly without sacrificing the story, narrative or effect. The denouement could have gone either way but thankfully settled on the right side of the line.

 

Movies that provide a commentary on a range of issues tend to fall down at some point, however, Blindspotting manages to stay strong in its depiction of race, authority, masculinity, and violence – a big compliment to the sharp writing and direction. The layers to Collin are carefully explored and it’s clear to see where the positives and negatives lie – and it may or may not include the “hipsters” that are invading Oakland. Of course, there were one or two coincidences or conveniences along the way but, again, nothing here was outlandish or unbelievable (though some may take issue with the aforementioned ending). The authenticity created by the shifting of atmosphere – from tough to comedy, and anguish to genuine warmth – also helped shape the movie’s overall feel during its concise ninety-five-minute runtime.

 

Every now and then, a movie comes along that I genuinely can find no fault with. One that engrosses me, entertains me and keeps me on edge and Blindspotting did just that. Gripping, authentic, tense, uproarious and strong, Blindspotting is a superb achievement.

October 31st 2018

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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