For better or worse Blindspotting is a film totally energised by the pulse of unrest in today’s America. White cops shooting unarmed black men, gentrification, racial tensions at breaking point, shifting social attitudes and the air of political claustrophobia are all threaded into the film’s swift and urgent 90 minute runtime. For these characters, there’s a feeling that there’s nowhere left to turn. Conflict is everywhere. The world is burning. The question is, are you going to simply fan the flames or try to create something new from the ashes?
Written by and starring Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, both actors feel like revelations. Not since Good Will Hunting have two leading actors taken creative control of their destinies with such a firm grasp; writing themselves parts they know they deserve, generating a piece of material they can be proud of. And like Good Will Hunting, which was directed by Gus Van Sant but is primarily regarded as the creation of its young actor/writers, Blindspotting will be seen as the work of Diggs and Casal. Which isn’t to say nothing of Carlos López Estrada’s direction, which is flashy, stylish and always in service of the film’s constant forward momentum and careful character beats alike.
Diggs and Casal’s fearlessness in engaging with timely political subjects reminded me a lot of Spike Lee’s early work. Not just in the anger and confidence, but in how passionate and committed to its stance it is. There are creative swings here, in performance and structure, which might derail the film for some, but they are so sincere and extraordinarily bold – even in the face of potential ridicule – that I was constantly on the film’s audacious wavelength. Few films surprised and caught me off guard with their artistic gambits in 2018 as much as this one.
Blindspotting is a shout of anger, a plead for understanding and a call to arms all at the same time. Yet, for all its confrontational furore and brazen topicality, it’s also supremely entertaining and watchable – an impressive tightrope act it shares with Lee’s Do the Right Thing, still the high watermark for films of this kind. It’s tricky to gauge how films like this will stand the test of time, but, if nothing else, it’s an exemplary insight into, and document of, the various types of turmoil experienced by many Americans in 2018.