Detroit (2017): Part 2 of 2
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writer: Mark Boal
Cinematographer: Barry Ackroyd
Producer: Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Matthew Budman, Megan Ellison, Colin Wilson
by Jon Cvack
Continued from Part 1...
As terrifying as Platoon’s Mai Lai portrayal was, it didn’t go on for the majority of the film; it was a scene within a larger film, which I think could have benefited Detroit. The more appropriate portrayal would have focused on the shocking trial, where even with nearly half a dozen witnesses, mostly black, testifying to what happened, the officers were found not-guilty and simply relieved of duty.
In the end, we hear that the filmmakers don’t know what actually happened that night, relying solely on the surviving participants. Unfortunately, having sprinted through the trial and its proceeding, I couldn’t help but take this fact and wonder what else was left out. We see how the witnesses’ individual histories and unrelated character impacted the trial, but with the absence of hard facts, I was left wanting more from both sides. What was the officer’s defense? What was the strategy? How did the media respond? How did the community respond? Countless questions began popping up, leaving me to think that this story would have been much better served by abandoning the extended torture and murder of those involved and toward what happened with the trial and what it all meant. The movie might have been better and less effectively titled The Algiers Motel than Detroit, as I was hoping to see more of all the events that occurred; the injustices throughout the city and the way the politics played a role between the governor, mayor, community leaders, National Guard, and police; allowing us a well-rounded view into these tragic days.
I was left depressed in the end; in a way that I don’t think is needed right now. The black community and those on the left don’t need to see such grotesque actions in a film in this era; they see them every month, if not more; with officers often excused with equally similar slaps on the wrist. To see that this has been going on since 1967 and essentially for all of time, often in much worse terms, doesn’t add much to the conversation. Seeing how the system worked and the ways in which it was used to favor officers against the black community is something that would have provided value. And thus the film seems relevant solely for conservatives, who refuse to see a problem, and yet would very likely take issue with the closing statement regarding the facts. And if not for a political audience, I’m not sure who this is for, as even someone removed from current affairs would likely have a hard time watching this.
It’s a very well made film, telling a story that’s better to exist than left unexplored. All problems with focus aside, it contains some of the finest performances from an ensemble cast in years. One of the strongest performances from Will Poulter, who masterfully conveys the sheer hate, bigotry, and blatant disregard for the law in order to maintain his white supremacy, all without the slightest degree of empathy. He’s one of the most vile characters I’ve seen graze the screen this decade. To show the world what the dregs of humanity actually look like - that it stands to infect anyone from any race, should power and opportunity present itself - that is what’s most terrifying to see. Just as most have no clue what would possibly cause them to set fire to their own community, we also don’t know where or when evil will infect humanity.
BELOW: Truly one of the most vile characters of the decade
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