Blindspotting (2018) ☆☆☆1/2 (3.5/4): Race matters

“Blindspotting” has one of the most gripping showstopper moments I have ever seen during recent years. While that spellbinding moment alone is more than enough for recommendation, the movie is also packed with other terrific moments as going up and down along with two guys at the center of its story, and the overall result supremely works as a funny and intense character comedy drama about race and other relevant social issues.

The movie opens with a moment of hyper-reality which succinctly and effectively establishes the current situation of Collin Hoskins (Daveed Diggs), an African American guy who was once incarcerated in a prison for a few months but has been going through his probation period since being released several months ago. Because his probation period will end three days later, he is nervous about any possibility of trouble, and that is why he is not so pleased when his two friends wield guns in front of him while they spend some time together inside a vehicle belonging to one of these two friends.

After Collin gets out of the vehicle along with the other friend, they walk together for a while as talking a bit with each other, and we get to know more about them. Although Collin is black and Miles (Rafael Casal) is white, they have been close to each other since they grew up together in their neighborhood which is located in Oakland, California, and it is frequently amusing to observe their contrasting personality difference. While Miles talks and behaves as if he were your average hot-tempered black dude, Collin looks more subdued in comparison because, well, he must be careful at every step before getting officially freed from the legal system.

And then something shocking happens while Collin is driving back to a dormitory for convicted felons on parole. Not long after stopping his truck at a crossroad, he happens to witness some African American man running away from a white police officer and then eventually shot by that white police officer, who also sees Collins shortly after shooting that unfortunate black guy. Quite shocked and frightened by what has just happened in front of his eyes, Collin drives his truck away from the scene as urged by policemen who subsequently arrive at the scene, and he tries to forget everything as getting into a trouble with the police is certainly the last thing he wants, but, of course, that incident constantly haunts his mind.

While never overlooking the accumulating guilt and remorse inside Collin, the movie leisurely moves from one episodic moment to another for establishing further its two main characters and some other substantial supporting characters including Miles’ caring black wife Ashley (Jasmine Cephas Jones) and Collin’s ex-girlfriend Val (Janina Gavankar), a college student who also works in a moving company for which Miles and Collin have worked. Although they have been separated from each other since Collin’s incarceration, Val still cares about Collin, and there is a warm, intimate scene where she willingly helps him on a little problem with his hair.

In case of Ashley, she and Miles have sincerely loved each other and both of them care a lot about the welfare of their young son, but there later comes a tense moment which will definitely scare any good parents, and that accordingly makes Ashley have a growing doubt on their relationship. She still likes Miles, but she does not want to see her dear son endangered again, and she makes her point quite clear to him during their private conversation scene.

And we observe more of the complex relationship dynamic between Collin and Miles. It is later revealed that Miles made the situation worse for Collin during the incident which resulted in Collin’s incarceration, and it is also pointed out that Miles got away with that because he is white, but Collin still regards Miles as his best friend because he knows how much Miles was sorry about what he inadvertently caused. They always click well with each other as friends and colleagues, and that aspect is exemplified well by several humorous moments including a hilarious scene involved with a bunch of hairdressing tools.

However, their relationship is inevitably tested when Collin is reminded again of what a troublemaker his friend is. When he feels like humiliated just because of a casual remark on his behavior and attitude, Miles unwisely follows his impulse without hesitation, and that eventually leads to an emotionally intense scene between him and Collin. While steadily maintaining their nuanced performances on the screen, Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, who also wrote the screenplay together besides the co-producing the film, are simply electrifying during this scene, and Diggs, who has mainly been known for his recent Tony-winning performance in acclaimed Broadway musical “Hamilton”, later impresses us more during that aforementioned showstopper moment, which may feel unlikely at first but somehow works quite well as delivering its sharp social/political message to its audiences.

“Blindspotting” is directed by Carlos López Estrada, who previously made several music videos and short films before making this first feature film of his. Besides drawing the good performances from his two lead actors and other main cast members, he did a commendable job of establishing the palpable sense of locations around the characters in the film, and he does not hesitate at all from occasional bold stylish touches to fuel the narrative momentum of the story. What he and his cast and crew achieve here is stunning to say the least, and I certainly agree with other critics that the movie is one of the best debut feature films of this year. If you have not seen it yet, I urge you to check out this small gem as soon as possible.

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