“You monsters got me feeling like a monster in my own town!”
As I anxiously await Aquaman and Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, I thought it was a good time to find some of those hidden gems that I have missed so far this year. I chose Blindspotting this week, a film that received some buzz early and had some nominations in the smaller award circuit.
Blindspotting follows the last 3 days of probation for Collin, played by Daveed Diggs, best known for his work in Hamilton. Diggs brings his unique hip-hop style to this role, incorporating his Clipping style in every day events, seamlessly going from rap to regular cadence throughout the film. Three days before he is released from probation, Collin witnesses a murder performed by an officer chasing a suspect. It shakes him, not knowing what to do; should he report what he saw, or let the media keep believing what the officers are saying about the incident? This part of the story will be resolved later in the film, but let’s leave that to you to figure out.
The real story of Collin is his friendship with Miles, his tough-exterior white male friend from the slums of Oakland, where our story takes place. Miles is played by the writer and producer of the film, Rafael Casal, who steals every scene he is in, including a hilarious exchange with Mama Liz, a hair salon owner played by Tisha Campbell-Martin. Collin and Miles have been friends since elementary school. For those that still have a connection or friendship going back that far, it connects to pretty much every part of their lives. I am lucky enough to still talk to my friend from 3rd grade every day. Our friendship has withstood 35 years, and this is where I connected with the film.
We know Collin is on probation, and the details at the beginning of the film are a bit foggy on why. We later discover through a co-worker, Val, played by the Shiva herself, Janina Gavankar, that Miles is directly involved in the reason Collin went to jail. The film begins to play both sides and lets us decide which is better: to give up on your friendship if it is poisoning you, or stick with it because he is always there for you. This, too, comes to a boil near the end of the film.
The third major character of the film is Oakland, a city that always seems to be on the brink of destruction, yet now on the brink of a rebirth. As San Francisco overflows, people must emigrate. It helps that the Golden State Warriors have become the “it” team in the NBA and picked up a ton of people on their bandwagon. With that popularity comes more people to the city, and Oakland is turning into an Austin West. It is perfectly shown throughout the film with random hipsters, on gigantic bikes, with incredible mustaches and beards, and arms full of Whole Foods bags.
One scene shows the Oakland Fox theater. On the marquee is Oakland legend Too Short, and below him is Third Eye Blind. This shows the changes happening in Oakland these days. Later in the film, the hardcore Oakland native Miles comes across a new transplant from Portland. They have the same tattoo, an outline of the state of California on the neck with a star in Oakland.
At the end of the film, I sat back to digest what I had seen. The movie was beautifully filmed with colors and scene changes that illustrate the good and the bad of Oakland. An incredible scene was presented at the very end of the film to tie a bow on it all. The message of the film fully comes through: race, friendship, and community all play a part of our lives, and ignoring any part of it is a disservice to yourself. If you ignore what you see, how are you ever going to understand what you are seeing? What do you even see? I highly recommend seeing it for yourself. And look for a complete scene-stealing moment by Utkarsh Ambudkar that reveals the reason Collin in on probation. Try to find a way to watch this film; every person should see it.
Jaxwing Scale – 8/10