Blindness (2008)

DVD Cover (Miramax)
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Ranked #1,679
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A city is ravaged by an epidemic of instant "white blindness". Those first afflicted are quarantined by the authorities in an abandoned mental hospital where the newly created "society of the blind" quickly breaks down. Criminals and the physically powerful prey upon the weak, hoarding the meager food rations and committing horrific acts. There is, however, one eyewitness to the nightmare. A woman whose sight is unaffected by the plague follows her afflicted husband to quarantine. There, keeping her sight a secret, she guides seven strangers who have become, in essence, a family. She leads them out of quarantine and onto the ravaged streets of the city, which has seen all vestiges of civilization crumble. --IMDb
Review by Chad
Added: March 11, 2009
I guess you could say that I didn't "see" Blindness coming, or maybe you could say that it "blindsided" me. However you want to put it, the first time that I heard about this film was when I saw it on new release day over at Netflix. I had never heard of the novel, I hadn't read any of the reviews for the movie adaptation, and I never even knew of the film's existence until it was available to rent. The plot outline intrigued me though, so I figured that I would give it a shot with zero expectations. It wasn't at all what I expected, but that's damned sure not a bad thing in this particular case.

The storyline is surprisingly simple when taken at face value, but there's layers upon layers of depth for those of you who care to dig a little deeper; in fact, those of you who choose to only take this at face value and skip the digging will likely walk away disappointed. It all begins on a typical city morning: the streets are lined with people heading off to work, traffic is piling up, and the folks who decided to hoof it to work are having to battle the traffic just to cross from one side of the street to the other. Suddenly, traffic just stops thanks to a man (Yusuke Iseya) ignoring the now-green light ahead of him, and after a couple of people decide to go up to his car to find out why, they discover that he is blind. He wasn't born blind and he could see when he sat down in the driver's seat, but in the blink of an eye, he completely lost his vision.

Our Japanese friend is able to find his way home thanks to a "helpful" citizen who happened to be in the right place at the right time, and he and his wife immediately set up an appointment with an optometrist (Mark Ruffalo) to get to the bottom of this bizarre situation. The eye doctor can't find anything wrong with his patient's eyes, and he has never heard of anything like this happening throughout his career. As we will soon discover, this blindness is caused by some sort of highly infectious disease: the first guy gave it to both his wife and the doctor, they passed it on to the people that they came into contact with, the number of carriers doubled from there, and it just gets worse and worse as time ticks by.

Oddly enough, the one person who didn't catch it is the doctor's wife (Julianne Moore), but she decides to accompany her husband anyway when the government sets up a quarantine for those who have suddenly found themselves sightless. They and the other infected are dumped off at an abandoned asylum with little compassion for their troubles, and as if that wasn't bad enough, armed guards patrol the area and have permission to shoot anyone who attempts to leave. Food and water are handed out on a first-come, first-served basis, tempers start to flare up, the conditions get more and more deplorable as time goes by, and this woman will soon discover that being the only person with the use of her eyes may be more of a curse than a blessing.

Upon reading the condensed version of the plot, I sort of got the impression that this would be something along the lines of 28 Days Later (minus the horror) or the dreadful I am Legend (minus the "mindless blockbuster" approach). Maybe you got the same idea from reading my rendition of the synopsis, and if so, let me be right up front with you: that is not the case. Blindness shares one thing in common with those two releases, that being that the storyline kicks off with a highly-contagious virus ravaging a nation. That is where the similarities end, and if you're checking this out simply because you want something similar to either of those films, you will be disappointed.

What you will get from this movie is something along the lines of an in-depth character study - actually, scratch that, something more akin to a humanity study: how will this group of people get along with one another when they have nothing in common aside from their illness? They may have been doctors and gangbangers, lawyers and bartenders on the outside, but now that they've gotten infected and are being forced to live together in these cramped quarters, it's survival of the fittest: the amount of money in their wallets and their statuses out in the "real world" doesn't mean a damned thing in a place where trading a diamond ring for a fruit cup is an unfair trade for the person receiving the jewelry.

That is what you get from the film, and personally, I loved almost every minute of it. I have to admit that it did start to drag in spots, but for the most part, I found myself completely wrapped up in this storyline and waiting to see where it was headed next. It paints a very nihilistic yet not at all inaccurate portrait of mankind, and even though one would think that keeping this fresh for two hours would be difficult, I found that the vast majority of the material kept me interested and entertained. If you're wanting a film about sprinting zombies or lots of scientific babble about the origins of this virus, you've picked up the wrong movie; if, however, you want a movie that shows how animalistic man will get given half the chance and if you're in the mood to put on the thinking cap to root out the true message of the film, you'll likely love Blindness as much as I did.

In terms of characters and actors, there's Julianne Moore and then there's everyone else. Moore is the star of the movie, and she delivered a superb performance throughout ninety-nine percent of her screen time. She manages to keep the audience in the palm of her hand during many of her emotionally-challenging scenes, and truth be told, I didn't expect a performance this good out of her. I do think that she fell victim to the "ham it up for a couple of 'best actress' awards" bug in one or two of her scenes, but otherwise, I can't say anything negative about her.

On the other side of the fence, we have "everyone else." I lump them together because with the obvious exception of the leading lady, there are no starring roles and all of the main characters are basically on equal ground when it comes to their significance to the plot. Mark Ruffalo is the most likely candidate for the costar nod, but it's hard to even label him as more important than a few of the other characters who pop up as this story progresses. Anyway, my main point in lumping them together is to say that there are no subpar performances to be found from the supporting cast. I expected at least one weak performance given the large number of speaking roles, but I can't say that I found one; these actors ranged from "great" to "perfect", but none of them fell below those two levels. Considering that this film deals with characters and their interactions with one another, this is a very important thing - thankfully, the filmmakers realized this and cast appropriately.

Overall, I can't say anything overly negative about the film. A quick trim here and a minor cut there would have improved a few moments of the movie, but even this issue only pops up in a scene or two and is nothing to come right out and bitch about. With that aside, it's an excellent movie visually, it makes you think while presenting you with an engaging storyline, and it gives you characters to love and villains to despise. If one could ask for anything more, I don't know what it would be. 9.5/10.
Vash #1: Vash - added 03/12/2009, 01:38 AM
i saw this in theatres and it actually made me want to kick myself in the dick. every character bugged me and just... the central conceit of the movie just did not work for me at all. the decisions the characters made just made me even more angry and ugh. not good.
Andy van Heel #2: Andy van Heel - added 03/03/2012, 03:28 AM
Just saw this one yesterday. Rented it from our library. I read the book a couple of years ago, so I knew what was comming. The movie is good, but the book is better (how cliché this might be, in this case it is true). This says more about the book then about the movie. It's OK. The acting is OK and the overall weird, sometimes fairytale-like atmosphere of the book was, good for us, picked up by the director. Good attempt. The different layers that are present in the book also get lost a little bit in the movie. That's a shame, but still it was a good attempt. Not the easiest book to transport to movie. Considering the Hollywood-factor , the director could have done a lot worse.
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