a DETROIT musing

Based around true events, DETROIT dramatizes the events of the riots in the titular city in late July 1967. Rather than give a broad view of why the riots were instigated and what the people in authority did to stop them, the movie drops you directly into the “war zone”. A police raid of an illegal nightclub leads to anger boiling over into shoplifting and all-out riots in the city. One night at the Algiers Motel, shots fired at officers are investigated by police, security guards and military, as all of our main players converge. 

The centerpiece of the film is at least an hour long, as the Detroit policemen (led by a tremendous Will Poulter) attempt to find the gun that shot at them. A security guard, played by John Boyega, tries to defuse and is able to see the situation from both viewpoints, and an army man gets caught up in the circumstances. All the people in authority are white (except Boyega), while our alleged assailants are black, with two white women. Things get extremely heated, as expected, and it leads to an incredibly tense, uncomfortable sequence. As it continued on, it almost turns into self-parody and overindulgence. Themes are hit so hard on the head that some of that tension is lost. The audience is treated as another person watching every perspective happen, lessening the effect. Had there been one solid perspective to follow, with events happening offscreen that we don’t see and are left up to interpretation, the impact could have been so much harder. With what feels like an extended epilogue after the night at the Algiers, the ever-present overbearingness led to more frustration. The director, Kathryn Bigelow, an expert at really digging into tense moments, tries to hold your hand throughout.

Featuring a mostly miscast non-American cast (with Poulter really turning it to 11 and succeeding; the ethnicities not being a bad thing, just an interesting observation), DETROIT thrives on setting up and executing tension when needed. But as Bigelow already has us locked into the tension, she relentlessly hits us over the head while holding our hand at the same time thematically.



(Refer to my rating system HERE!)