There’s a lot to be said for a 90 minute running time. If a film needs in excess of two hours to tell its story, and does it well, a la Avengers: Infinity War at 160 minutes, that’s one thing. But all too often there are films that clock 120 minutes and then some, with very little need and detrimental effect. Blindspotting is 95 minutes long, with tight storytelling of a truly compelling narrative that is made all the more intense with the pace it is told at. It’s one of reasons it was my favourite film of 2018.
Colin (Daveed Diggs) is coming to the end of his year-long parole. The last few days are in site, which, as is sod’s law, is exactly when he finds himself getting caught up in events that are beyond his control. Not only that, he’s finding himself being forced to re-evaluate his relationship with his volatile best friend (Rafael Casal) and the fact his hometown, Oakland, is quickly being unrecognisable in face of gentrification.
It would be understandable if this review is the first time you’ve heard of Blindspotting. It had a short but sweet London-centric run at the cinemas, with only a little bit of press surrounding it. That is not an indicator of the film’s quality, instead it reflects an intrinsic problem within distribution of independent cinema within the UK as Blindspotting is truly quality. It is in possession of a top-tier brilliance level of quality that deserves to be shouted out about from the rooftops.
First and foremost is the two men at the forefront of this film. Diggs (Hamilton alumni) and Casal (a spoken word artist), co-wrote the film over nine years ago. A fact that seems anticipatory almost to the point of miraculousness as this is feels the most current film we’ve had in years coming along at the time it is most dearly needed. The tone of the film touches a fine balance between comedy and drama, with the perfect contrast between light and shade to create a sense of truth about proceedings. Diggs provides the powerful lead performance, playing a man who keeps finding himself getting caught up in trouble that is inevitability beyond his control. He’s also someone who is becoming all-too aware that his hometown is no-longer recognisable, making him an undesirable. Casal gives an astonishing supporting performance as the short-tempered and reckless best friend. The fact the character is also a father allows for further exploration of one of the film’s main themes, masculinity. I’d be hard pressed to think of any other recent films that have explored modern masculinity with such honesty, truthfulness and total understanding.
This ties in with the film’s two main other themes, race and gentrification. The film uses it’s buddy-duo comedy to provide seething socio-cultural-political commentary through a combination of wit and seriousness. The community to which they belong, the community they love, is being erased in the pursuit of profit – they’ve got a lot to be angry about. And yet that anger is channelled through a hilarious bromance that feels truly believable. The film follows the pair over the course of several days, each social interaction symbolising a piece of the uneasy jigsaw that places like Oakland have become. With an injection of money, that is only accessible for a select few, there comes change that is used to oppress and isolate the masses that long predated its arrival.
It’s hard-hitting, compelling, eloquent, authentic and utterly mesmerizing. A total must-see.
Dir: Carlos López Estrada
Scr: Rafael Casal & Daveed Diggs
Cast: Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal, Janina Gavankar, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Wayne Knight
Prd: Keith Calder, Rafael Casal, Daveed Diggs
DOP: Robby Baumgartner
Music: Michael Yezerski
Run time: 95 minutes
BLINDSPOTTING is out to Download and on DVD & Blu-ray on 4th February.