Detroit Screen 61 of 16 reviews

Detroit

2017

Detroit Poster
  • Angry, lucid, bludgeoning, subtle, and at times surprisingly moving... In the end, by homing in on the specifics of a horrific “incident,” Bigelow has crystallized the metropolitan chaos of Detroit and made it stand for any city blighted by inequality and racism. In the course of the movie, the city of Detroit comes to signify a warped state of mind and to embody, metaphorically, an ingrown, obdurate, layered kind of racism.

  • Since the invention of the camera, it has taken a particularly willful ignorance to live in complete freedom from images of black suffering and revolt in the face of unchecked police authority. What makes “Detroit” vital is not that its images are new or revelatory, but rather that Bigelow and Boal have succeeded, with enviable coherence and tremendous urgency, in clarifying those images into art.

  • One fascinating thing about the film is its patchwork texture... Another is its unorthodox structure, starting with a big picture network narrative, drawing the characters together for a taut, contained hostage situation with protagonists held at gunpoint by cops in the Algiers Motel, then breaking free and trundling along through a protracted, disjointed aftermath that leaves the viewer with no idea where the thing is going or when it will stop.

  • I found the ending of Detroit a little unsatisfying, at least on the basis of a single viewing... The trial is not brought to life, as the earlier scenes are, but sketched, and Bigelow loses the focus on character that is the strength of the body of the film, without expanding its scope to take in the incident’s political repercussions. But in a sense this disappointment is testament to how rich the characterisations are, and how powerful her film is.

  • Bigelow's genre shift is itself the film's most powerful political statement. The newsreel style of the early sequence keeps audiences engaged by scope, and skeptics at arm's length in the knowledge that demonstrations in America circa 2017 “aren't like that anymore, at least.” The debasement and cold-blooded murder that dominates the film after the shift doesn't let a single viewer off the hook.

  • I sincerely hope that there’s a five-hour cut of Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit somewhere — a version with cleaner through-lines, deeper characterizations, and a more organic narrative. But the version that we currently have — a messy, troubling beast clocking in at around 150 minutes — is riveting in its own way... Bigelow has crafted a portrait of the 1967 Detroit uprising that manages to be both history lesson and incendiary device, even if it sometimes sputters.

  • It’s a very angry movie packed with ideas about the difference (or lack thereof) between racist threats and racist violence and the militarization of American policing, drawing the Vietnam War, the racism of law enforcement, and this country’s later forays into the Middle East into a continuum. There is even a reason to admire its dawdling moments: Among all the movies that wallow in the horrors of violence against America’s black citizenry, there are few that devote this much time to grief.

  • Opportunities to explore PTSD—by far the most promising avenue, one with real metaphorical-contemporary resonance—are either ignored (strangely, Boyega's security guard loses any semblance of an inner life afterwards) or underutilized (arguably the second half of Detroit should have been about the Dramatics literally regrouping). Since the cops got off in large part due to a legitimate technicality, focusing on that injustice makes little sense. What happened to the trauma?

  • Art can and does change the way people see the world. But the combination of tastefulness and relentlessness with which Detroit approaches its subject matter is careful and dutiful and rarely resonant, despite Boyega's heartbreakingly world-weary gravity, despite Anthony Mackie's exhausted anger as a just-returned Vietnam vet being treated like an enemy combatant in his own country, despite Poulter's chilling smirk, and despite the terrifying visuals of tanks rolling down a city street.

  • To call Bigelow’s film a massive disappointment isn’t to include it among the truly bad movies that have been dragging their way through the cinemas this summer (it’s a letdown only because I still expect things of Bigelow)... Though buoyed by her film sense, Detroit succumbs to problems endemic to “Based on Real Events” prestige properties, films that too often are preoccupied with the truth while not feeling entirely honest—the latter being what we should demand of art.

  • For all its technical craft, occasional grace notes... and its smorgasbord of alert performances from a game young cast, Detroit is difficult to recommend to anyone already feeling emotionally pulverized by the ongoing spectacle of anti-black American racism. As noisy and disorderly as the unrest it presents, Bigelow and Boal’s latest is perilously close to resembling a bull let loose in a china shop where the china has already been smashed.

  • It's transparently an activist film. As a result it's dictated more by the views and emotions of the filmmakers than by artistic judgment or taste. Some viewers might think that's the appropriate treatment for such a serious and important subject, but I'd argue that such an approach makes the movie less memorable. Bigelow and Boal ambitiously try to cover a lot of ground, but they've done so unevenly, and watching Detroit is ultimately an unnecessarily frustrating experience.

  • It eventually becomes clear that we spent the majority of the movie looking at terror and injustice without much of a chance to understand how those involved were able to withstand it. They for the most part don’t have genuine inner lives, just outer wounds, neat character arcs, and obvious moments of semiresistance.

  • If it's a well-intentioned picture, it’s also a flawed one. This is filmmaking that sets out to make its points but fails, in big ways and small ones, to forge an emotional connection with most of its characters. In a strange way, it’s more fixated on the white cops, Krauss (Will Poulter) and Flynn (Ben O’Toole)—their characters are stand-ins for the real-life cops in the Algiers Motel case, Ronald August and Robert Paille—who figure prominently in the film’s extended, excruciating centerpiece.

  • Bigelow's intentions come through clearly: to depict an incident—and a climate—of racism, to show that the cruelty of these deeds was multiplied by their ultimate impunity, and to suggest that, in the intervening half-century since the events depicted in the film took place, little has changed. Movies aren’t made with intentions, though; they’re made with people and with equipment, and what Bigelow has her actors do for the benefit of the camera is repellent to imagine.

  • The movie runs nearly two and a half hours, and the viewer feels every minute, in both the good and bad senses of that phrase. It’s an exercise in clammy cinematic claustrophobia, a vision of law enforcement as organized sadism that is itself a sadistic experience to endure.

More Links