Collin (Daveed Diggs) is on edge. With three days left on his probation, Collin is trying his best to stay out of trouble. But when he witnesses a cop shoot an unarmed black man in the streets, he questions not only his place as a black man in a city like Oakland, but also his lifelong friendship with troublemaker Miles (Rafael Casal).
Collin and Miles work as movers. They go from place to place moving people out of homes they can no longer afford. It’s a perfect plot device by director Carlos Lopez Estrada. It not only showcases the great chemistry and friendship between Collin and Miles, but as a love letter to Oakland and its evolution.
Blindspotting is one of the smartest independent films to come along in quite some time. Written by Diggs and Casal, the film tackles everything from racism, social media and police brutality to start-up culture and the justice system.
But it presents these themes organically through the decisions the characters make as well as the environment they’ve already grown up into. Blindspotting sounds like a heavy film, and it is at times, but it’s also one of the funniest films of the year.
With shades of both Friday and the apex years of Spike Lee, the film tackles heady topics in an entertaining way while never coming off as preachy. The incident that lands Collin in jail best encapsulates this. While working as a doorman at a bar, Collin gets into an altercation with a white hipster type. Miles, who is there with him, escalates the situation which leads to Collin being arrested, a man in the hospital, and Miles getting off scot free.
The scene is presented as a flashback through the eyes of a witness who was there and it had me laughing out loud several times due to the smart writing. But then the scene flips on a dime and becomes the elephant in the room for Collin and Miles.
Collin is smart and articulate. He’s also black with braids in his hair. Miles is white but he wears a grill in his mouth and talks like he’s Eminem. They’ve been best friends for years and have seen Oakland as both an urban and diverse community slowly succumbing to gentrification.
The color of their skin has never been a problem until Collin’s arrest highlights not only Collin’s constant fear and insecurities as a black man in 2018, but also his friendship with Miles who wears his “thug” persona as a badge of honor.
As the feature film debut for Estrada as well as being Diggs and Casal’s first screenplay, Blindspotting is as impressive as it gets. Estrada directs with confidence. The colors pop, the camera moves and the environments are rich and lived-in.
Diggs is a compelling lead who can manage both the humor and serious aspects to the story. Casal is a revelation. The trailer presents him as a horrible friend who Collin should have left behind years ago. But when you watch the film, he’s a loving father and husband who can talk his way out of any situation (For better or worse) and provide for his family. He certainly can drag Collin down at times, but he’s loyal which makes him endearing.
Blindspotting surprised the hell out of me. It’s a film of its time that tackles serious issues with urgency and confidence. But also manages to entertain and inform thanks to Estrada’s direction, a colorful and woke screenplay from Diggs and Casal and breakout performances from the two leads.
Blindspotting is available to rent on Amazon for $2.99.