Just like Dunkirk, I have a feeling that DETROIT will be nominated for Best Picture come next year, and it completely deserves it. It is a masterful, harrowing tale of true events that is so realistic at times it is very hard to watch. The direction by master filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow is nothing less than perfect, the acting is above and beyond what half of movies come up with these days, and everything coming off the screen, you want to look away, but you can’t. And although the third act dips just slightly (some people have said that the third act completely stops the movie, I don’t quite agree), it is a film whose reality at the time parallels our own, and it is…fucking…scary. One of the year’s best films indeed.
The film depicts the tragic events that happened at the Algiers Hotel during the emotional and racially charged 12th street Riots in July of 1967. But it doesn’t just depict that tragic event, it depicts the start of the riots and takes about 20 minutes to actually get to the hotel. This helps the film tremendously in building tension and letting the audience know how desperate and hectic the situation was. Once we get to the actual incident at the hotel, our nails have already ripped out the fabric of the theater seats, and we haven’t even gotten to the worst parts yet. The camera work uses slight realistic shaky cam, but it doesn’t get to the point of Paul Greengrass where it makes you sick. It is basically almost shot documentary style, adding to the realism.
The film has multiple points of views. The film shows the point of view of the racist cops that did some very bad things that night. The film shows the point of view of a security guard (played by John Boyega of The Force Awakens) who happens to be swept up into a situation where he doesn’t belong. And then there is the point of view of the victims, namely a band member and his buddy and a couple of people they just meet that night, including a cook and a couple of white girls. The incident is set off when the black cook decides to use a toy race starter pistol and shoot it out the window to scare the shit out of the police across the way that are already on edge dealing with the riots. Of course, the police follow the sound, and end up at the hotel, and the police are not so nice, and some really fucked up bad shit happens.
I don’t want to ruin the movie, so I’m not going to say exactly what happens, but it is very, very, very, very bad. At times shocking, and a lot of the time, very hard to watch. And it has a ending that you will not enjoy one bit. All the performances are top notch. John Boyega is mostly an quiet but determined outsider looking in, and then accidentally gets tragically swept up in everything. Anthony Mackie plays one of the victims, who is a war vet. But the real performance goes to Will Poulter (We’re The Millers) as one of the racist cops. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets nominated for supporting by when voting comes up. He’s a character that you despicably hate, and the only reason because of that is his performance is masterful.
Everything from the beginning of the riots, to the actual incident, is some masterful stuff. But then after the incident, and the shortened trial, maybe the last 20 to 25 minutes of the film, kind of dips a little bit in value. And that is mainly because of John Krasinski (Jim from The Office) who plays a lawyer trying to defend the racist cops, and I just didn’t believe his performance. It felt like Jim was pulling a joke on Dwight. But I believe showing some of the aftermath was necessary and would’ve felt cheated if it had just showed some title cards depicting what happened next, so I’m giving the very last little extended epilogue act the benefit of the doubt. I think it was necessary for the whole thing to come together.
The real winner in this is director Kathryn Bigelow, who has won a best director Oscar for The Hurt Locker, will sure to be nominated here again, and screenwriter Mark Boal, again, won an Oscar, will probably be nominated here as well. This is a master collision course in terms of filmmaking and sending a message about race relations, then and now. Although hard to watch, I could watch this film over and over again, it’s a breathtaking piece of cinema. Go see it. A very important film.