Here is the transcript for my review of Detroit, which aired Aug. 16 on Episode 79 of The Bridge. during the segment called “Five Minutes in the Film Room.”
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What’s up everybody? I’m Joe Baress and this IS “Five Minutes in the Film Room.”
Kathryn Bigelow is not only one of the best female directors in the business, but one of the best directors in the game … period. She earned acclaim for her best picture winner, The Hurt Locker, and cemented her legacy with 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty. This time, she takes on the Detroit riots in 1967 with her latest theatrical release, Detroit. The Hurt Locker took us into the lives of a bomb-diffusing task force in Iraq. Zero Dark Thirty delves into the hunt and eventual killing of Osama Bin Laden. Detroit gives us the battle on the homefront. Could Bigelow handle the change in scenery? … Let’s go to the tape.
Bigelow is no stranger to tension so her directing style was an easy fit for Detroit. The intimate camera work creates a claustrophobic feel key to the plot of the film. The camera is often in the faces of the characters to capture the fear, dread and pain in their expressions. At the time when racial prejudice was high to say the least, the importance of capturing emotion is paramount.
In 1967, racial tensions flared, leading to tragedy at the Algiers Motel. The movie is dramatized and pieced together by those involved in the horrific events. Although it’s based on a true story, I don’t want to spoil it. It was powerful for me to go into it without living through it or even knowing the details.
With such an important topic, Bigelow collects more great talent and gets the best out of her actors. Anthony Mackie and John Boyega deliver good performances as we have come to expect. Jason Mitchell, who plays Easy E in Straight Outta Compton, gives another solid effort. Jacob Latimore also shines, as well as Will Poulter. Although I’ve seen him successfully portray a good guy in The Revenant, Poulter has a knack for capturing the evil in a character, which he does here. Game of Throne’s Hannah Murray also turns in a good performance, making you realize, she is in fact in other things.
If not the best performance in the film, Algee Smith’s turn as the lead singer of “The Dramatics” is the breakout performance of the movie. He has an amazing voice and great acting range. His performance stood out to me more than the others, and I’m excited to see him act in the future.
Obviously, Bigelow had a number of characters and plot lines to handle unlike her other films, which have a main character. This is an ensemble and she balances the stories beautifully.
Most importantly, Bigelow doesn’t tell a story that white people are bad and black people are good. She tells a realistic story, which shows righteous men and women, and evil men and women. It also shows that some are good-intentioned, but fail to do anything to help the cause of an abysmal situation. It shows all sides. It doesn’t show a bias to a specific race. It’s a real film, an emotional film and also a fair film.
Now, I’m lucky enough to have grown up not surrounded by racism and lived in a household where any kind of prejudice based on race is unacceptable. The way people thought back then and unfortunately how people still act today never made sense to me, but it happened. And it’s happening. At age 27 and in my corner of the world in Northeast Pennsylvania, I don’t see it. And I think that means a lot of people don’t see that this is how it was and that we are still not past it today. Unfortunately, recent events have shown us what can come of racism, but it’s also movies like Detroit and The Imitation Game that show us we should be better or history will keep repeating itself.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Detroit gives us the master craft that we’ve come to expect with Kathryn Bigelow. Is it better than The Hurt Locker or Zero Dark Thirty? No, but those are two of the best movies of the past 10 years. The intensity and great acting capture the gravity and reality of the horrific events in 1967. The events that unfortunately mirror the recent catastrophe in Charlottesville. It’s sad we can’t get past our differences after hundreds of years of violence, but maybe that just makes this movie all the more important.
I’ll rank Detroit as Derrick Fisher. He’s no Kobe or Shaq, but without him the Lakers don’t have five championships.