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Movie Review

Three days.

For three days, Jonah sat in the belly of a whale. For three days, Lazarus lay in his tomb. For three days, Jesus was dead. And then the stone was rolled away.

Collin hopes for a resurrection of sorts, too. The convicted felon has been on parole for nearly a year now, living in a halfway house, forbidden from inching even a toe outside his hometown of Oakland, California.

In three days, Collin will be done with parole. He'll walk out of Oakland's legal belly once and for all, breathing the air of a truly free man.

Unless the whale chews him up first.

The next three days won't be easy. Miles, Collin's workmate and closest chum since childhood, is a spitting agent of chaos, a white guy with a golden grill in his mouth. He's loyal and generous, but as likely to introduce himself with a fist to the face as a shake of the hand. He's got a girlfriend, a son, and a shiny new illegal gun, too. Just being around that gun puts Collin at risk of violating parole.

But what can Collin do? They work together for a moving company. They've been best friends forever. If Miles would just stop waving that contraband piece around, Collin could at least preserve a little plausible deniability. Surely, Miles wouldn't actually use the weapon … would he?

Miles is a little volatile, but Collin's used to that. He can deal.

But as Collin heads home from work one night trying to beat his parole curfew, a black man dashes into the street, right in front of Collin's moving truck. He sees the man's face for a second—his terrified, almost pleading face.

Collin has no time to process. The man takes off as a police officer charges into view, gun drawn. The officer tells the man to stop—then fires. Again. Again. Again.

In the rearview mirror, Collin sees the man in the street, lying lifeless in the darkness. The cop turns to look at Collin. They stare at one another, each looking almost bewildered.

Collin drives away from the scene. He's got a curfew to keep. He can't antagonize the police. He won't get involved. But the moment follows him home anyway.

The image of the terrified man.

The cop.

The gunshots.

Three days. Just three days left.

Positive Elements

Blindspotting tackles lots of important issues, from racism and racial identity to gentrification to, of course, police brutality. But it does so through the eyes of some deceptively complex characters.

Take Miles. On one level—and certainly for those who run across him on a bad day—he seems like an out-of-control thug. But Collin knows better: When Collin was in prison, Miles visited him twice a week. Miles has had Collin's back since before fourth grade, and he's not about to stop now.

Then there's Val, the moving company's dispatcher and Collin's ex-girlfriend. Miles despises Val and her chilly, uppity ways, but he especially hates the fact that she's trying to change Collin (much as Oakland itself is changing and gentrifying). But here's the thing: Collin knows he needs to change if he wants to stay out of prison.

Val's an advocate for personal improvement; and while the movie questions both her motives and methods, improving oneself is not, inherently, a bad thing to do. And the movie understands that, too.

Collin stands at the center of this emotional and moral tug-of-war, wanting to honor Miles' friendship and loyalty while still making some much-needed changes in his life. The shooting, obviously, weighs heavily on him, too. And even though he's determined to get through these last three days without incident, his subconscious thoughts nag him, telling him through dreams and visions that he's shirking a moral responsibility to address what he's witnessed.

Spiritual Content

Val appears to embrace, to some extent, a New Age-y Eastern spirituality—another characteristic that Miles mocks. He greets her, for instance, by saying "Namaste" (a traditional greeting in Hindu culture) as she burns incense in the office.

Elsewhere, we hear a profane reference to Jesus' blood.

Sexual Content

Collin and Val are no longer an item. But when the two get together one evening as friends, they share a lingering hug that nearly terminates in a kiss. (Val pushes away eventually and leaves.)

Before going to work one day, Miles tells girlfriend Ashley that he needs to warm up his hands on her rear before heading off. He does (though the camera doesn't show it), and they engage in some light, vaguely sexual banter. (Miles and Ashley cohabitate and have a son together.)

We see both Miles and Collin shirtless. We hear crass references to female body parts.

Violent Content

"How were we supposed to know that hipsters were so … flammable?"

Indeed, flammability lies at the heart of Collin's felony. While working as a bar bouncer, he got into a messy altercation with a patron (which we see in flashback) trying to take a massive, flaming drink out of the bar. When Collin insisted that he couldn't exit with the burning beverage (because it was against the law), the patron protested, and things quickly escalated: Collin beat up the guy something fierce—his face was saturated with his own blood—and Miles joined in too, kicking the man in the ribs. Eventually, the altercation set the patron's pants on fire. We see the bloody, flaming melee at some length. Later, Val says that the victim was "in the hospital for a week … all for a drink."

Miles gets into another fight later in the movie. He pummels the victim to a bloody pulp and smashes his face against a car door. He suffers his own injuries, too, which leave his face bruised and bleeding.

A police officer shoots and kills a man: We hear the shots, see the body and revisit the scene again and again in Collin's flashbacks and dreams. Collin also has a vision of sorts while jogging, in which he visualizes dozens of black Oakland residents standing beside, presumably, their own gravestones. One of them is the man who was shot, his shirt covered in blood.

Miles and Collin ride in a friend's tricked-out car that's filled with guns—lurking in the glove compartment, stuck in the sun visors, stuffed under seats. Miles procures one of these firearms and carts it around for much of the movie. He takes it home, too, where Miles' young son, Sean, finds it and begins playing with it on the floor—sticking the barrel right under his eye.

[Spoiler Warning] Collin takes the gun away from Miles (which would constitute a parole violation) and is terrified when a police cruiser stops beside him, and the policeman in the car wants to talk with him. He still has the gun in his possession when, as fate would have it, he and Miles are called in to move the policeman's family. Collin finds the policeman in the basement and threatens to shoot him, smashing some vases. But he eventually tells the cop that he's no killer and leaves.

A kid plays a super-violent video game. Miles wears a shirt that says, "Kill a hipster, save your 'hood."

Crude or Profane Language

We hear more than 140 f-words and at least 65 s-words. The n-word itself becomes a plot point in the movie's latter stages, and we hear it at least 40 times as well. Also heard: "a--," "b--ch," "d--n," "h---" and "p---y." Several obscene gestures are made, too.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Miles smokes frequently, and he often tucks an unsmoked cigarette stuck behind his ear. We hear a couple of times that he smokes marijuana, too, and that Collin used to do so as well. But when Miles asks if he would like to toke some weed with him, Collin says no, suggesting that habit is no longer a part of the new life he's trying to build. We also see a car filled with smoke, though whether it's from tobacco or marijuana isn't obvious.

As mentioned above, a flaming, alcoholic drink instigated Collin's jail time. The man who bought it was already impaired, the film suggests. We see plenty of alcohol served at a party. The host, when talking with the very few black guests in attendance, refers to it as "drank." An Uber driver has a stash of vodka in his trunk.

Other Negative Elements

When Miles' son, Sean, finds dad's (illegally obtained) gun, Ashley wheels on Collin, asking if the pistol is his. Miles wordlessly pleads with Collin to take the rap for him and lie, but Collin refuses. Collin and Miles also see plenty of rude, inconsiderate behavior from Oakland's deep-pocketed newer residents—behavior Miles often greets with hostility and profanity.

Conclusion

Reading this review, you'd be forgiven in thinking that Blindspotting was a grim, oppressive movie predicated on police brutality and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Yes, those things play a part in what we find here. But in truth, the movie's partly a comedy, too, even though its storytelling ambitions are much broader than that.

The killing at its core takes place against a backdrop of rapid change in Oakland, where the city's grit and character are being gentrified. Collin and Miles pack the old city's history into the back of their moving van as new, richer, often white buyers remake neighborhoods in their own image. Corner diners are replaced with vegetarian chains. Almost every aside references this wholesale urban transformation, down to Oakland's namesake oaks themselves—all but gone now, except for pictures on street signs. One new Oakland transplant—who just moved from Portland and sports the same Oakland-centric tattoo on his neck that Miles does, much to Miles' annoyance—proudly points to a slab of wood in his living room. It's the trunk of an Oakland oak, he brags, 142 years old when it was cut down and turned into a conversation piece.

The police officer who kills the running man is a transplant, too. We're told that the Oakland police force is staffed with out-of-towners who don't understand the city or its history. Thus, Blindspotting is more than just a story about race. It's also about change. It's about old and new rubbing painfully against each other, just as race and class rub together in this cauldron of transition. Miles and Collin both ask themselves what can be salvaged from their old lives and what must be made anew.

A movie with 140 f-words will never earn unreserved praise from Plugged In, of course. Blindspotting can be difficult enough without all the violence and language it stuffs in the audience's collective face—much of it completely unnecessary to tell this story effectively.

But while we can't turn a blind eye to Blindspotting's excesses, neither can we turn away from its multilayered message—one that comes with no obvious answers, but reminds us that behind every tragic headline, behind every face we see on the street, there's a story that goes well beyond stereotype.

And we should never forget that.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Daveed Diggs as Collin; Rafael Casal as Miles; Janina Gavankar as Val; Jasmine Cephas Jones as Ashley; Ethan Embry as Officer Molina

Director

Carlos López Estrada ( )

Distributor

Lionsgate

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

July 20, 2018

On Video

November 20, 2018

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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