‘Blindness’ a must-see thriller

Scott Viau

Film: Blindness

Director: Fernando Meirelles

Producers: Andrea Barata Ribeiro, Niv Fichman, Sonoko Sakai

Writer: Don McKellar

Starring: Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo

Runtime: 120 minutes

Rating: R

Photobucket

There are some films that are bound to divide audiences, and “Blindness” is one of them. Some may find it insightful and intriguing, while others may find it laughable and silly. I find myself in the former group.

Much like this past summer’s “The Happening,” the hows and whys are never fully revealed. What we experience is the aftermath of a group struggling to survive under horrible conditions.

The first case of blindness inflicts a man waiting for a traffic light to change. The man goes to a doctor (Ruffalo) who’s unsure of what has happened. At home, the doctor discusses this rare occurrence with his wife (Moore) who’s disinterested and brushes it off. The next morning, the doctor awakens to find he’s gone blind as well. Believing the disease, which is now widespread, to be contagious, the government quarantines those infected, sending them to a hospital ward with limited rations and little order. Unwilling to let her husband go alone, the doctor’s wife, who mysteriously does not get infected with the disease, goes along to find that conditions in the hospital are far worse than expected.

We’re introduced to the characters in an Altman-esque way where one character brings us to the next. The characters, ranging from meek to appalling, showcase the wide gamut of emotions humans portray when thrown into drastic situations.

The acting by nearly all performers is top-notch. Moore gives a wonderful, caring performance. She truly exhibits a compassionate, altruistic side as the only person able to see, yet when pushed, she is not afraid to push back. Ruffalo is an actor many people may not be familiar with. He’s given great performances in “You Can Count on Me” and “Zodiac,” and his performance here is no different.

Gael Garcia Bernal is also a welcome addition. Fans of foreign films may recognize him from “Y tu mamá también.” Bernal plays a sadistic man bent on seizing control and power at the hospital, and takes deplorable actions to do it. Danny Glover presents us with a restrained and soothing performance as the man with the eye patch, although it does seem ridiculous that he keeps his eye patch since he can no longer see out of either eye.

While many people may not notice it, none of the characters have a formal name. We only know them through either their profession or their physical characteristics. This is done to make the characters even further detached from those around them.

The premise of the movie does require a suspension of disbelief, but once you get over the implausible plot, what’s left is an intriguing and thought-provoking piece of filmmaking. As a sociological experiment, it’s interesting to see director Meirelles’ take on a society devastated by a disease. Human compassion is thrown out the window as the fight to survive is in full force. After taking control of the food, Bernal’s character demands payment, which is completely useless to him since there’s nothing he can buy. When everything valuable is given to him, he then demands women be sent to him to satisfy his sexual needs.

Although there’s been backlash by special interest groups claiming “Blindness” portrays the blind as ruthless, immoral creatures, it’s not necessarily the blindness that’s making them this way. These characters would act this way in any situation where they’re forced to create their own society. “Blindness” is not a comment on the blind but on the way our society seems to profit off of the misery of others.

“Blindness” appears to be the cinematic child of “The Happening” and “Children of Men.” The premise of the movie is ridiculous, but the after-effects are illuminating and horrific. Not being a fan of sentimentality, the ending does unfortunately suffer from it. It gives one hope, but in a society as ravaged as this one, is hope too late? Regardless, “Blindness” is a moving film that everyone should see.