Blindspotting is a big, brash, oft-brilliant film by Carlos López Estrada that sets Daveed Diggs up for cinematic superstardom.
The film uses the basic elements of hip-hop – rhythm, rhyme, narrative, repetition and sampling from other works – as the foundation for its own unique style and tone. It has the bite of social realism mixed with a music video’s flights of fancy, all colliding to craft a rich, memorable ode to life in Oakland.
Collin (Daveed Diggs) is a recently incarcerated young man who is set to vacate his halfway house and finally return home after his stint, trying to find a new path for his life. His best friend, Miles (Rafael Casal), seems both ally and impediment on this quest, pulling Collin into circumstances that test his ability to remain on the straight-and-narrow. When Collin is stopped at a red light and witnesses a white cop shoot a black man in the back, he’s torn between his outrage and his desire to keep a low profile.
The central image of Blindspotting refers to those optical illusions with two superimposed images, where your own predilections help determine which one you see. In so many ways, this film stretches your perspective, allowing you to see the multi-sided circumstances all at once. It’s a film of nuance and subtlety told through action, violence and even rap-monologue, which may test the audience’s ability to sway with the changing timbre of both performance and storyline. For willing to go along with the flow, the movie offers much reward, from a deep and personal story to indelible performances by a top-notch ensemble.
Written by Diggs and Casal, they incorporate a broad musicality to the cadence of dialogue, heightening some of the crucial moments to near operatic-levels. But this isn’t some haphazard incorporation of urban elements for the sake of fashion. This is deeply entwined with the very sprit that drives core hip-hop expression. Diggs’ role in Hamilton has brought him a modicum of fame, but here he’s positively electric on screen, grabbing our attention in every frame and demanding our attention and our empathy, while still allowing the flaws and faults of Collin to be accessible as well. The narrative refuses any easy analysis or interpretation of the characters’ decisions, providing a truly compelling way into their life stories.
No doubt, there will be bigger, louder films that tackle the same issues that Blindspotting raises, but few will do so with as much intelligence or grace in their ideas. This is an exceptional movie, rich in intellectual rigor and emotional power, headed by one of the most astonishing performances of the year. Blindspotting is a brilliant film that will shake you to the core as you embrace its tale of friendship, redemption and struggle.