Essential viewing. Carlos Estrada’s film, if not the best of the year, is the most important. Blindspotting is shocking, powerful, provocative, incendiary, even funny. It’s ripped from the moment. It encapsulates today’s modern indignation. It’s a contemporary classic.
In Blindspotting, a middle-aged cop unloads his weapon into a young, unarmed male on a quiet street at night in Oakland, CA. Just after he pleads with the officer not to shoot is when he is gunned down. The victim is black, and the police officer is white. While these city streets may be changing, some things still remain the same
Witnessing the crime is Collin (played by Hamilton Broadway star Daveed Diggs), a black parolee, who was stopped at a red light while driving a moving company truck and trying to get back for his 10 pm curfew (he has three days left on his parole). It’s a striking visual as Collin sees the unarmed man, hands raised in surrender, in the rearview mirror.
Collin’s best friend since childhood, Miles (newcomer Rafael Casal in a tour de force performance), who’s white, is an unpredictable hot-head. His behaviour continually puts Collin in danger of violating his parole. We soon come to realize Miles had a key role in Collin’s incarceration.
Blindspotting builds suspense slowly and piles on the tension while tackling issues of gentrification, indignation and racial identity. Trying to handle the emotional complexity of the injustice he witnessed, being a guardian angel to a man that keeps putting him one step closer to violating his parole, and waiting out the last few days to reclaim his freedom, Collin is the most perplexed man in the Bay Area.
Miles deals with his own identity growing up in a neighbourhood that doesn’t always accept him for who he is, even being raised there. In an explosive scene, Miles attacks a young, black man for telling him he doesn’t have to “act ghetto” to hang out there. Miles is a hot-head, and this triggers a handful of confrontations, including a pair of stunning scenes. One is finally coming to blows with Collin. The other is sitting at a kitchen table with his girlfriend, Ashley (a scene-stealing Jasmine Cephas-Jones, who matches Casal shot for shot). The sparks fly, and the emotions run deep. They linger in your mind well after you leave the theatre.
The script for Blindspotting was written by Diggs and Casal (who both grew up together in Oaktown) and boy do they know how to hit you over the head with it. One scene has the characters (and the audience) laughing at a child’s gift to his father; then seconds later, they are frozen in horror as a potential accident possibly unfolds.
Casal, in his first film role, displays a split-second rage, reminiscent of a young Al Pacino. His performance is a hurricane, a true force of nature. I can’t imagine anyone else taking home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor this year. This is one of the greatest supporting characters in modern film history. He’s that good.
Daveed Diggs’ final act, while confronting the white cop he saw gun down a defenceless man, is mesmerizing. It’s a byproduct of a group that has felt unfair treatment and feelings of social injustice that comes pouring out in one explosive, ultimately moving, scene. Any Best Actor category should include his name. Oscar needs to punch both their tickets to the show now. No excuses.
Blindspotting is essential viewing. This is a first-time feature film from Carlos Estrada, whose film, if not the best of the year, is the most important. Blindspotting is shocking, powerful, provocative, incendiary, even funny. It’s ripped from the moment. It encapsulates today’s modern indignation. It’s a contemporary classic.
M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.