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Blindness

Movie title: Blindness (2008)
Grade: B- (3 stars)
Rated: R
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Producers: Niv Fichman, Andrea Barata Ribeiro, Sonoko Sakai, Bel Berlinck, Sari Friedland, (Exec.) Gail Egan, (Exec.) Simon Channing Williams
Starring: Julianne Moore “The Doctor’s Wife,” Mark Ruffalo “The Doctor,” Alice Braga “The Woman with Dark Glasses,” Danny Glover “The Man with the Black Eye Patch,” Gael Garcia Bernal “Bartender/King of Ward Three”
Genre: Horror/Thriller/Drama
Summation: A mysterious illness robs the world of sight leaving humankind struggling to survive.
Spoilers ahead: No
In a word: Disturbing

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The idea of suddenly going blind has always been horrifying to me. To live in a world without sight would be debilitating. For those of us who can see, suddenly not having sight would change the world in a most disastrous way. Just to think about suddenly going blind is scary, scarier than any monster movie I’ve ever seen. The reason being, blindness is a real thing and it could conceivably happen. Not since 28 Days Later have I been so creeped out!

Be ready to feel shocked and disturbed because in Blindness, a mysterious onslaught of sightlessness attacks the world. As an uncontrollable epidemic, it quickly spreads and wreaks havoc. When mass panic and chaos lays waste to law and order, it’s up to the nobler to rise above it. It is in these times that the term “family” has a far more extended and cherished meaning. The values we hold on to have the most meaning to us in times of catastrophe and confusion.

The film exhibits marvelous attention to detail in nearly every regard, but as a result of this, it is somewhat graphic with nudity, bodily fluids, bloodshed, and visually acute conditions of squalor always on display. The visuals and cinematography bring to your view a full and mostly accurate representation of the world we’ve come to know and love without that precious sense known as sight.

A number of scenes are skittish and miss the targeted emotion sought after, but what is not missed is the escalating chilling feel. Things go from ordinary to odd to disturbing to scary, and then to dire in a steady climb. Before you know it, the situation has become more serious than you realize. The mood at first seems to almost be that of a romantic comedy. Then trouble strikes and worsens, much like the mood-ruining surprises that thwart a good day.

Believability is sometimes missing. In the beginning, when the quarantine phases begin, we get to know a parentless young child being quarantined with a mob of frustrated, confused adults in facilities that resemble internment camps without any type of monitoring or government except from outside behind guarded walls. In a state of crisis, things can be rather poorly managed, but not this poorly managed. No kid would be left in such circumstances for sure. And the poor kid would have been balling his eyes out, as would the cots-full of women (some of them incarcerated completely naked) lying dirty and confused. What should have been better played up was the emotional trauma and mental breakdowns that would be experienced were this to really happen. It is on this note that the movie begins a moralizing that can be irksome.

The film’s portrayal of the government as mindlessly unorganized and cruel is too much. Every effort is made to portray the military as reckless glory-boys who incompetently take power redneck-style in the futile effort to safeguard us. It’s a big political statement about medical care and less government for sure, but it goes way too far and doesn’t seem real. If you doubt this, just ask yourself why the film includes concerned people begging two hasmat-suited soldiers for medical aid to help an injured man, only to be coldly turned away under threat of gunfire. Everything in movies means something—trust me!

Yeah, we know; the government is oppressive and incompetent and has an imperfect medical coverage system. Bureaucracy and red tape does get in the way and ends up hurting the ailing common man. But what’s new? If you happen to take pride in the U.S. of A. being a wonderfully apt and charitable choice among so many (and always less beneficent) governments on this planet, then some of these undertones might tic you off. The struggle to survive does come out on top, however. And the movie does draw more attention to the human interaction as opposed to the nature of the mysterious blinding affliction, but it keeps a high level of curiosity about everything right through to the end.

Agree or disagree with the subtle undertones, the message of the movie is basically right and valid—the human drives for love and family never shine so brightly as when we must find the need for them in and of ourselves. And who is our family? Not those fortunate enough to be born from our bloodline, but the whole human race, consisting of the distant cousins (strangers) who labor alongside us to survive.

Blindness is a remarkably bleak and yet provocatively bright film with an eye-opening, unexpected, and powerful ending that you shouldn’t miss. Apocalyptic and dark doesn’t have to be your thing to appreciate this, though I should say, it will help if it is!

(JH)

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