First Hit: Extremely powerful and pointed film and raises the bar for Best Picture of the Year.
Opening the film, is a sequence of short video shots of Oakland. Among the short montage of clips are the Fox Theater, Oakland homes, jump roping, Whole Foods, and a shoving match between two women on BART. Each of these are perfectly brief and set the stage for the racially tense film to come.
Collin (Daveed Diggs) is living in a probation facility and he’s got just a few days to go before he’s free. He came out of Santa Rita prison for something, we find out later, was a horrible fight outside a bar.
He’s working for a moving company with his lifelong friend and troublemaker Miles (Rafael Casal). Miles has a hair trigger and lashes out from time to time. As a racially mixed friendship, they have each other’s back and have had their fair share of run-ins together.
One of the early opening scenes, they are sitting in a very tricked out car, smoking weed, while Collin laments that he’s only few days away from being free of his court mandated probation. When Miles finds a pistol between the seats he brandishes it about, Collin gets upset and asks Miles to keep it away from him.
What does Miles do? He finds more guns in the car, playfully holds them up, and buys one. Collin, although upset, just asks Miles to not let me see or know that he has the gun on him while they work or hang out together. The way this scene unfolds is both pointed and funny.
Miles lives with Ashley (Jasmine Cephas Jones) and they have a son Sean (Ziggy Baitinger). Collin picks Miles up for work the moving truck. Because Collin is on probation he uses the truck to get home and to work. Arriving at the moving company's office to punch the time-clock, you can tell that Collin and Val (Janina Gavankar), the front desk receptionist and dispatcher, have some history together. It is obvious that she’s called off the relationship by the way they interact.
After dropping Miles off at home one night, Collin is waiting for the light to turn green when all of a sudden, a black man appears in front of his truck, looks at Collin, and continues to run. An Oakland policeman soon follows and when the policeman is adjacent to the truck’s door, he fires four shots and kills the running man. The policeman turns and looks directly at Collin.
This scene and image haunts Collin throughout the film. From this point on, the ominous tone of guns, racially charged words, social-economic and cultural differences begin to shape this film. The gun Miles owns plays a prominent role in two incredibly powerful scenes, as does their friendship and how it is tested. Collin wants to clean up his act, but racial tensions that build in the community because of the shooting, the have and have nots, and what he's going to do next once he's off probation makes his path difficult to master.
The term "Blindspotting" is explained in a very moving scene with Val and Collin and it’s usage is one I will not forget as it points out something we all do.
Diggs is sublime. The range of emotions and actions he shows as Collin are engaging and powerful. Casal as Miles was amazing. He’s powerfully rowdy but when Ashley reaches out to him about a particular incident, his compassion and love is amazingly evident. Gavankar is wonderful as Collin’s former girlfriend and truck dispatcher. She holds true to her beliefs and is a powerful force in Collin’s life. Jones was wildly wonderful. Her clarity of boundaries was perfectly expressed. Baitinger was great as Miles and Ashley's young boy. Ethan Embry as the Oakland Police Officer who shoots the running black man is incredibly engaging in both his scenes; the shooting and in his confrontation with Collin. Tisha Campbell-Martin as Mama Liz, Collin’s mother, is a scene stealer. Casal and Diggs wrote this insightful engagingly powerful script. Carlos Lopez Estrada directed this story with amazingly deft hands. He totally captured the feel of this powerful story.
Overall: Because this film is so powerful it must be considered one of my favorites as film of the year.