Blindness (2008)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Disaster Film  |   Release Date - Oct 3, 2008 (USA)  |   Run Time - 118 min.  |   Countries - Brazil , Canada , Japan   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Perry Seibert

Blindness plays like a serious-minded Brothers Grimm fairy tale for adults, only the director has neglected to provide a moral that gives all the pain and suffering any meaning. The simple, terrifying premise: an epidemic of sudden blindness -- causing people to see everything in a milky white haze -- sweeps through the world. The government and military, attempting to regain some level of control over the rapidly deteriorating social order, places victims in asylums. The heroes of the film are the wife of an eye doctor (Julianne Moore) and the doctor himself (Mark Ruffalo). When he wakes up one morning suffering from this unexplained phenomenon, she chooses to fake being blind in order to stay with him inside the detention center. Soon the institution overflows with other victims -- leading directly to a lack of adequate supplies, filthy living conditions, and the need to create and maintain a new social order. The largest portion of the film plays like an adult version of Lord of the Flies, with Ruffalo's character attempting to keep some sort of organization between the wards inside the detention center. He faces two major obstacles to this goal. First, his disability, and the stress of being in charge, begins to take an emotional toll on his marriage. Secondly, one of the other ward leaders, played with unceasing menace by Gael Garcia Bernal, becomes a fascist dictator. Bernal grows more and more inhumane, subjecting the others to deeper and deeper levels of degradation in order to earn themselves food and supplies. Bernal's character maintains his power with the assistance of his loyal second in command -- played by the superb character actor Maury Chaykin. For a film that seems to be about treating people well, Blindness makes the fatal mistake of creating bad guys infinitely more interesting than the good guys. Sadly, the filmmakers choose to end this section of the story with a discovery that is as anticlimactic as it is narratively convenient. This leads to a third act that, because suddenly so much less seems to be at stake than before, can best be described as limp. The movie's conclusion -- highlighted by a speech where one of the characters explains what was good about all the harrowing occurrences they have suffered through -- aims for poetry and uplift, but hits banality and apathy. Director Fernando Meirelles certainly puts his recognizable stamp on the film's visuals. The many ways he fills the screen with white or black -- continually playing on the theme of blindness -- are certainly inventive, but as a storyteller he doesn't communicate what this story means to him other than a chance to flaunt his visual style. Is Blindness a parable for risk taking? Vanity? American foreign policy? It's better to readily impart any literal moral to a heavily moralistic story than to preach for two hours without making your point clear, but that's just the misstep the makers of Blindness fell prey to -- blind to a storytelling style that will leave many viewers disinterested.