Gilberto Says DETROIT Is A Powerful Film That EVERYONE Should See.

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FILM REVIEW: DETROIT

BY GILBERTO CAMPA

Films have many great qualities to them that help create the most important reason that we all see them in the first place, the experience. When you think about movies that give you an experience often times they are powerful, well performed and incredibly real to the point where you forget that you are watching a movie. Kathryn Bigelow (K-19: The Widomaker, The Hurt Locker, and her last movie Zero Dark Thirty) continues her trend of incredibly powerful movies with her latest film, Detroit. And just like with the Hurt Locker (Best Picture of 2010), this movie looks to be an early contender for best picture at next year’s Academy Awards.

Set during the Long Hot Summer of 1967 in Detroit, Michigan, this movie is a dramatization of the Algiers Motel Incident that occurred towards the beginning of the Riot’s which began on July 23rd after policemen shut down an afterhours bar that was hosting a celebration for a returning African American Vietnam veteran. Right when this happened at the beginning of the film you can infer that this wasn’t just a riot that came out of nowhere as tensions with African American’s in the community and the policemen of Detroit along with problems in the city (jobs, economy, etc.) had driven the citizens to a breaking point.

It was the attention to detail that made all the difference in this movie as Bigelow crafted the scenes and set up all of the major characters before the actual even that took place later on in the film. By the time you reach the Algiers Motel (The main sequence in the movie) you have connected in one way or another with every character introduced into the movie, without much detail, which is all an attribute to Bigelow and the screenwriter Mark Boal.

When it comes to the characters in the movie besides the biggest character being the city of Detroit,  it’s actually a very distinct group of African Americans that are all in different lines of work and are also at certain points in their lives. Starting with Algee Smith as Larry Smith who goes through the most drastic change in the movie as this is also the start of Larry’s music career along with his fellow group members know as The Dramatics of Motown fame during the 1970’s. If there are any characters that go through an overall arch, Larry is completely shook and changed at the end of the movie, which is sad because he had so many aspirations in his life.  Then you have FN-2187 himself one of the best young actors in the business today, John Boyega who portrays Security Officer Melvin Dismukes. His arch in the film is somewhat difficult because he is in an almost powerless position as he has to do his best to make sure things don’t go out of hand as the events of the movie continue to escalate, and at the end  its incredibly sad what ends of happening to him. But Boyega brought a very raw and honest performance to this role as you can see how much it kills him to see what is going on to these people, and all of the pressure and stress that it drives him under at the end.

Even though he wasn’t in the movie as much Anthony Mackie who collaborated with Bigelow in The Hurt Locker plays Greene who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. His character is a war veteran (an Air pilot at that which was a nice nod to The Falcon) that is experienced with the racism and the mistreatment of African Americans in this period, but remains calm throughout the scenes that he is in, but delivers a solid performance nonetheless. And on a little bit of a lighter side of things I just want to mention the always charismatic Jason Mitchel who is one of my favorite actors today ever since his breakout performance as Eazy-E in 2015’s Straight Outta Compton, He is not in the movie as much as I would have liked him to be but he plays a very important part in the film as his actions cause the events to unfold at the Algiers Motel.

This brings me to the most important character in Detroit the ignorant, bigoted, and just plain racist policeman Phillip Krauss played MASTERFULLY by Will Poulter, as soon as he came on screen you instantly disliked his character. Even though the set up prior to the events at the Algiers with the city being torn apart by riots and the constant patrolling of the National Guard, it is not justifiable to shoot a minor looter (in the back) that is taking food with a sawed off .38 as he is running away (as he learns from his superior who sees him for what he is). And the amount of disrespect and lack of humanity that Phillip shows in this scene along with what comes later just makes you despise him, but that is all a credit to the performance that Poulter delivers.

All of this setup in the first hour of the state that Detroit is in along with what the daily lives of these characters look like and the amount of escalating tension that is constantly rising all come to a breaking point in the main sequence of the movie. Detroit might as well be considered a horror movie because what the nine individuals go through at the Algiers Motel is something that no person, regardless of skin color should EVER have to go through. Just looking back I was so frustrated with what was going on, but I didn’t want to look away. The shoot first mentality, the planting of false evidence, the accusation of a weapon when there isn’t one, the constant disrespect, ignorance and hatred that is shown and expressed by Will Poulter (We will kill every last one of you until we find what we need) needless to say I was speechless and scared as of what was going to happen next, once you remember that this all actually happened. And prepare yourself what goes down during this sequence because it was difficult to watch and sit through.

The way that this sequence was shot and performed along with the amount of tension all creates an experience that EVERYONE needs to see because we as a society and as a people have to do better than this. I wish I could write this and say that fifty years later in 2017 race relations are as good as ever, but that is far from it (almost worse than ever). One can argue that it’s only slightly gotten better but my hope is that people go out and see Detroit for what it represents and how we should never let people of power whether it is policemen just do what they want to anyone, especially because of the color of their skin. Everyone needs to be held accountable for the actions that they commit regardless if they are a civilian or not.

I will admit that I don’t think Detroit is a movie that you can see multiple times because it’s just so sad and depressing (some people were actually leaving the screening before the movie ended) and most if not all of the characters have their lives drastically changed after what happens to them, especially Larry as he is almost to the point of just ending it (after what happens to his friend) all since he can’t even sing in front of a white audience anymore. But at the end as his band mates sign a deal with Motown and Larry wants nothing to do with it, but in life sometimes moving on is the hardest thing that we can do but it’s necessary, (life ain’t fair) and for Larry he doesn’t really find his peace but it’s his passion for singing and his faith in God that keeps him going. The soundtrack is another great part about this movie as the Legendary Roots Crew along with Bilal has given us an anthem that will be with you long after the credits roll.

 

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