Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Blindspotting Is A Beautifully-Realized And Richly-Detailed Achievement

Collin Hoskins (Daveed Diggs) is, like any human being, complex and full of layers, but to society at large, he's a felon first and foremost, he's always having to work overtime to prove his humanity to people that don't even know him. As he muddles through the last three days of his probation, during which he must adhere to strict rules including an 11:00 PM curfew he struggles with managing to re-establish his own identity beyond just being a guy who spent time in jail. This becomes especially challenging since the story of the fight that led to his felony charge in the first place has become something of a local legend and being a black man in Oakland, California means local police officers tend to think of you as only a criminal.

It's not all bad in his life though, especially since his job as a mover allows him to work with Miles (Rafael Casal), Collin's best friend since they were 11. Miles is a fellow going through his own identity crisis who is prone to bouts of violent rage over the most minuscule things that make him a source of possible trouble for Collin just as Collin looks to get his life back on track. The duo's struggles with their own identities occur as Oakland undergoes a similar struggle for identity that sees's it torn between the aesthetic instilled upon it by life-long residents of the area and the aesthetic foisted upon it by new residents and businesses like Whole Food Markets who are looking to gentrify Oakland.

All of these identity-based struggles turn out to be an excellent foundation to build Blindspotting on, with the film being so richly assured and confident that you would never guess that, for the majority of the creative personnel involved here, this was their very first foray into the world of feature-length movies. Director Carlos Lopez Estrada has never directed a feature-length film before (though he's directed a bevy of music videos), writers Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal have never penned a feature-length script, Casal hasn't even acted in a feature film before! These three guys have decided to dive right into the deep end of the feature-length filmmaking pool by tackling a movie this thematically hefty and such a bold move has paid off beautifully!

Above all else, Blindspotting is richly entertaining to watch, sometimes for pleasurable reasons and sometimes because what's occuring on-screen is so intense you can't keep your eyes off the screen. Much of this entertainment comes from Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, who are apparently real-life best friends and that would explain the incredibly natural chemistry they share in their numerous riveting dialogue exchanges. Plus, you get so much of their individual personalities clearly but subtly demonstrated in their mundane chats, the dynamic of Miles being the live-wire to Collin's more reserved demeanor is on full display whenever they're just shooting the breeze while moving people's belongings.

The characters are so richly drawn that darker elements that creep into their friendship around the middle point of the story can have a real impact and you can understand the complicated feelings Collin has for Miles. The script by and performances from Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal have made the friendship between these two characters so vividly realized that you completely understand how Collin could be cognizant of the toxic tendencies of Miles while also feeling like he can't just toss him out of his life. That's an insanely relatable experience that Blindspotting realizes so well and it's just one of so many ways Blindspotting excels in depicting Collin's constantly trying to establish himself in the eyes of everyone else as more than just "a black male felon".

I love too how this unending personal quest of Collin's manifests itself in occasionally heightened ways, Diggs and Casal aren't afraid to utilize imagery divorced from the constraints of reality to drive various points home and that means Blindspotting delivers some hauntingly distinct sequences, such as Collin envisioning black men shot by police officers standing in front of their graves, a recreation of the crime that led Collin to be imprisoned, a harrowing dream sequence of Collin in court and especially an ending that makes use of Diggs musical abilities that just bowled me over, it's a sequence that serves as a microcosm for the entire film in its audacious uniqueness and in how well it explores the lead characters desire to be in control of how people perceive him.  Blindspotting finds a delicate balance between the realistic and the stylized that's outstanding in execution and makes the exploration of these specific characters and larger themes, like racial identity, incredibly compelling to watch.

The aforementioned courtroom dream sequence is made extra intense by skillful editing by Gabriel Fleming that makes the scene appropriately disorienting on a visual level. Fleming doesn't just excel as an editor in heightened sequences though, he's doing great work throughout the movie, with him and director Carlos Lopez Estrada lending a zippy visual spirit to certain scenes (like the editing and the camerawork found in a humorous scene where Miles tries to sell curling irons) while also knowing just when certain moments call for shots to linger on-screen for a while. These two brought their A-game for Blindspotting, as did Diggs and Casal, who, in addition to having previously mentioned great chemistry with each other, also turn in terrific work in their solo performances. Diggs does some subtly beautiful work in realizing the complicated nature of Collin, a guy who wants to just focus on the future but finds himself constantly entangled in the past, including Miles who is basically a physical manifestation of his past.

This is a weighty part to play and one that calls for a gift for subdued but powerful pieces of acting and Diggs steps up to the challenge and aces it. Similarly, Casal finds his own brand of humanity in portraying Miles and you really begin to appreciate what well-crafted yet effortlessly executed work he's done here once his character gets dialed down a notch in the climax. Diggs and Casal have written these two lead characters as such fully-formed human beings and in a remarkable feat, they've both managed to also deliver impressively performances acting bringing said characters to life. How appropriate that such wonderfully nuanced acting would headline a movie like Blindspotting that's all about recognizing the complexities of people.

No comments:

Post a Comment