Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Detroit - Movie Review

The Movie: Detroit

The Director: Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)

The Cast: John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, Algee Smith, Will Poulter, Jacob Latimore, Jason Mitchell, Hannah Murray, Jack Reynor, Kaitlyn Dever, Ben O'Toole, John Krasinski

The Story: A police raid in Detroit results in one of the largest race riots in United States history. The story is centered around the Algiers Motel incident, which occurred in Detroit, Michigan on July 25, 1967.

The Review:
This movie was difficult to digest for a lot of reasons, but it is very necessary and it should open a lot of discussion about the hatred that still exists today. Yes, the movie has a lot of faults and could have covered the same ground in a more consistent and comprehensive manner, but it is still a very powerful film that will have you wanting to go find some racist people who clearly need some sense slapped into them. Writer Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow are no strangers to controversial topics as they have worked together on both Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker each of which came with equal amounts of praise and criticism.

The story draws its power from the shocking moments of racism and brutality that take place while the three police offices are holding the men and women for questioning and by questioning I mean physical torture, emotional torture, and just about any and every civil rights violation you could ever think of. While the shock value is there, the surrounding narrative is so disjointed and incomplete, it leaves a lot on the table and never properly explains the build up or justification for the riots. If anything it places the African American community in a negative light by only showing them as a dehumanized mob of looters and party goers.

While the story may flail and flounder, the acting performances are powerfully rendered by a cast that clearly understood the gravity of what they were being asked to portray. John Boyega is put front and center although his character lacks any real depth or purpose other than to be the on screen reactionary vehicle foe the audience to follow. I mean, he literally stands there witnessing everything as it takes place while his interaction with the other cast members is minimal and, for the most part, trivial. This also dilutes the intended drama of wrongly being investigated as a suspect and even that just sort of fizzles out with no real explanation or closure.

Will Poulter, as the primary antagonist, makes you want to punch racists.

Anthony Mackie is great although doesn't get nearly enough screen time.

Algee Smith is pretty fantastic as Larry Reed who was a founding member of the Dramatics singing group and also one of the group of people who were central to this story. This multi talented young man poured everything into his performance and the humanity he puts on screen makes the violence and abuse that much more impactful as it plays out. The other standout performance I will mention comes from Hannah Murray, best known as Gilly on Game of Thrones, although she shows a totally different side of herself in this film by really breaking down her character and finding some serious vulnerability that is both empowering and heartbreaking all at once.

The Verdict:
Detroit could have been a powerful and important movie although it lacked the proper leadership necessary to execute the story properly. I would say it is a solid yet misguided effort that falls well short of what could have been. That being said, you should still see this movie because no one else is telling this story and it needs to be out there for people to digest and discuss, especially considering the dangerous road our country is about travel.

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