The Force Screen 8 articles

The Force


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  • Nicks’s previous documentary, The Waiting Room, is a more satisfying but less searching look at an enduring institution, the American emergency room, perhaps because of its smaller canvas. It wouldn’t be kind or accurate to say that Nicks bit off more than he could chew, but the movie feels as confused as the rest of us about what to make of the state of American policing and just what can be done to make it an unassailably honorable profession.

  • This is a documentary that neither enhances our understanding of American policing nor attempts to look beyond the status quo. Promising an inside look at a dangerously opaque institution, The Force only serves to reinforce the sense that the people of this country have no idea what truly goes on inside the organizations which ostensibly exist to protect them.

  • There are times, especially when the other meanings of “force” emerge... that you wish that Mr. Nicks would have stayed longer so he could dig deeper into related issues, including segregation and racism. He tends to cycle through historical markers fairly fast, as when he shows archival images of the grouporiginally and pointedly called the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, which started in Oakland in 1966, partly in response to police brutality.

  • As a statement on current affairs, Peter Nicks' The Force is valid in every way. But watching the film, I could not help but wish he had been willing or able to go further in his analysis. By primarily restricting his vantage point to the daily grind of policing, there's a sense that the documentary is always playing catch-up. Nicks makes the most of the access he is given, but that means that he is caught up in the Oakland Police Department's P.R. machine to a certain extent.

  • I do appreciate The Force‘s urgency and thoroughness: if you haven’t been paying attention to police brutality-related news these last few years (and you really should be), this would make for a good synoptic primer. The lesson is summarized by a priest who acts as a community liaison: “The past has run up an incredibly high bill.” And, of course, the past’s not even close to being past.

  • Considering the difficulty of maintaining the neutrality of his position, Nicks manages fairly well, humanising the individual officers who adhere to their duties, whilst condemning the institution that has markedly, criminally, and continuously, failed to.

  • Nicks has a style that is both experiential and ethereal: From its ground-level immersion in the minutiae of police work to its sweeping helicopter shots of the city at night, The Force has the texture of a Michael Mann film combined with the clarity of a Frederick Wiseman documentary. I could have watched it for hours more, and I wonder if it would work better at a greater length; it’s so absorbing that I wanted more.

  • It is a keen reminder of how direct, “fly on the wall” cinema produces the mere illusion of insider knowledge and can hold a lot of secrets, the film shifting from a detailed examination of successful police reform to a sickening satire of bureaucracy and power run amok.

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