CJ (Michael B. Jordan) is a smart young man, on his way to fulfill his college dreams. He works at the local sneaker shop, tries to keep his dumb friend Tyrone (Robert Brickle-Tate) out of trouble and is the kind of son every mom would be proud of. When the blackout hits, he's at work and is distressed to see not only some local thugs rob the store, but his friend Tyrone hanging on the sidelines, then running when the sirens begin. Later, that same group comes back to finish robbing the store, joined by Tyrone, but some get busted by the cops and end up in jail, and others burn down the store. CJ, on the other hand, meets a much worse fate when he gets stabbed by one of the robbers, Rasheed, because he could identify him.
Claudine (Zoe Saldana) and James (Sean Blakemore) are a lovely young couple who live in the building. Claudine works at an urban magazine and James has been out of work for two years, due to the recession and other issues. We eventually find out that James was near the Twin Towers during the 2001 attack and is suffering from depression and anxiety and that's part of why he can't get out and find a job. Although they have an awful fight the morning before the blackout, the fear of not being able to reach one another and the need for each other's strength during the frightening night without power draws them together and shows them what a great relationship they actually have.
Fatima (Susan Kelechi Watson), on the other hand, discovers that her live-in boyfriend is a cheating wretch who, instead of going to work, was actually shacked up with the upstairs neighbor all day and didn't realize the blackout occurred. As it turns out, the blackout is quite enlightening for her. She finds herself on her own during the blackout, having thrown her man out of the apartment but instead of thinking of her own needs, she instead goes to check on her neighbors to insure their safety and ends up saving one old woman's life.
Another integral and amusing story surrounds George (Melvin Van Peebles), the maintenance man for the apartment complex. It seems the management has been getting complaints about George's performance lately, but with such a rundown building, it's hard to keep up. Sol (Saul Rubinek), the white manager, comes down to the apartment building in a blaze of fury, all set to fire George and kick him out. After the blackout happens, Sol finds out more than he even intended to about George, who he is and was at one time and gains a great appreciation for the old man. In fact, George protects Sol during that dangerous night and Sol comes to realize George's value runs way deeper than he ever knew.
A central location of the neighborhood is the local barber shop, run by Nelson (Jeffrey Wright), a neighborhood installment for many years. Here, the local guys hang out and discuss happenings and it's the scene of several funny moments in the movie. As things progress with the blackout, a local gang of bad guys, run by Wisdom (Ali A. Wahhab), start a fight in a water line at the convenience store, one which almost ends in more bloodshed but which is averted when the lights come back on. After over 24 hours of hell, the neighborhood survived but with permanent changes.
There are some deleted scenes in the special features, but what I found most interesting were the real life stories of the blackout of 2003 and the Meet the Cast featurette. It seems that a number of actors in the movie also performed other roles in the film, whether it be writer, producer, sound mixer, etc. A lot of heart and soul went into this movie and it shows. While it may not be a story for everyone, Blackout is well acted and well written. If you would like to see a glimpse of what it must have been like during the blackout of 2003, give Blackout a try.