Blindspotting is incredibly bold. It tackles systematic racism, police brutality, gentrification, and the deep-seated flaws of the American prison system in an electrifying, intense, and vibrantly artistic manner. Despite the ultimate heaviness of the film, Blindspotting frames Oakland, California as a colorful, bustling center of contemporary urban life, rather than a near war-zone.
“You got me feeling like a monster in my own town!”
Collin (Daveed Diggs), who works as a mover with his volatile, lifelong best friend Miles (Rafael Casal), is nearing the end of his year-long probation. On his way home from work in the dead of night, he witnesses the violent murder of an innocent young black man by a white police officer. Seconds later, the officers scream for Collin to keep his truck moving and he lurches forward as if in a trance. This interaction haunts him for the next few days as he attempts to keep his head down and make it through the end of his probation. In these following days, the bond between Collin and Miles is tested as they struggle with their own identities in an increasingly gentrified neighborhood.
Diggs and Casal, actual childhood best friends, have an outstanding and genuine chemistry that lays the foundation of the film. Their characters’ differences and similarities, their shared experiences and struggles, and perceptions of violence in their community are the heart of Blindspotting. Additionally, Daveed Diggs cements his place as one of the most lyrical and sensational contemporary artists as he eloquently weaves rap into the film’s script.
The supporting cast only further uplifts the film. Jasmine Cephas Jones, another Hamilton alumn, is brilliant as Miles’ girlfriend, Ashley. She brings warmth and emotion that only a mother can to such an intense film. Janina Gavankar is light and refreshing as Val, Collin’s ex-girlfriend, who works as a receptionist at the same moving company as our two leads. Both women play important roles as loved ones, but also as women who have lived in the community for most of their lives.
The third act of the film is magnificent. Each moment builds to Collin’s explosive, heartbroken rap-monologue as he confronts the police officer who committed the murder he witnessed at the beginning of the film. In this act, Blindspotting evolves into true performance art, each moment calculated and significant, every breath Collin takes impactful.
Despite all of its strengths, there were quite a few moments where the film and script felt awkward and overly melodramatic. This happens when the film awkwardly shifts from a social examination of Oakland to something less thoughtful and meant to be more entertaining. In some places, the plot bounces off in too many directions, pulling the viewer out of the film. However, most of these moments were outweighed by the deep passion I felt deeply throughout the script.
Blindspotting is both an honest love letter to the city of Oakland and its people and an intense, thoughtful commentary on police brutality and gentrification. It’s the kind of film that leaves the entire theater stunned and silent when the credits roll.
Jenna Kalishman is a freelance writer and cinephile based in Colorado who often focuses on female and queer perspectives as well as female-led projects. She spends much of her free time listening to Stevie Nicks and re-watching Carol. You can find her on twitter @jenkalish.