Rated R
143 Minutes
Released August 4

 

This movie will pick you up and throw you right out of your comfort zone – in this case that’s a positive aspect. This is a hard film to watch. However, as Maya Angelou so eloquently stated, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Detroit will make you feel – whether you like it or not, so be ready. Director Kathryn Bigelow (Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) has an instinct for getting to your gut feelings. A few days ago I saw the documentary Whose Streets?, a documentary about the demonstrations and outrage following the police shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson MO police in 2014. The riots on which Detroit is based took place in 1967, 47 years earlier. As a country, has our society had no evolution mentally, morally or philosophically since then? After watching the Charlottesville confrontations and violence over the last few days, I fear that is the case.

The screenplay for Detroit is beautifully written, pulling together many diverse roles in concert, always keeping the strong dramatic rhythm of the narrative in play. A glance, a split second gesture, reaction, tells volumes about each character. There is no unnecessary exposition. Director Kathryn Bigelow said that she felt, as a white female from northern California, she was by no means the perfect person to tell this story of the 1967 Black Riots in Detroit. Yet perhaps she was the perfect storyteller. Often an outsider will perceive a more pure picture of an event, time or place, able to see culture clashes and nuances with clear eyes. Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal constructed their story from first hand accounts of people who had witnessed the riots, which had been collected through the Detroit Historical Society starting in 2015. Boal then wrote a moving, emotionally charged script.

The superb work of the cast will have you riveted to the screen. I noted to myself as I watched the film that the actors playing the white police officers had to have great courage in order to inhabit these troubled minds. Later I discovered most of them are British actors, reinforcing my “clear eyes of an outsider” concept. Take note especially of John Boyega as “Melvin Dismukes,” Will Poulter as “Officer Krauss,” Hannah Murray as “Julie Ann,” Jack Reynor as “Demens,” and Ben O’Toole as “Flynn,” all Brits. Victoria Thomas undertook casting for a great number of roles where every character is vital to the story no matter how small – no actor in this film is simply there to “move the story forward.” Thomas did a phenomenal job.

The camera work by cinematographer Barry Ackroyd seems to mirror eye movements and keeps the story moving with a heartbeat rhythm as you try to comprehend the chaos and brutality you are witnessing. Actual news footage from the incidents is flawlessly interspersed with the dramatized footage by editors William Goldberg and Harry Yoon. The narrative never loses a beat. All in all this is a very skillfully made film about difficult subject matter, and definitely worthy of Oscar consideration.

Detroit will have you thinking … why is it that we as a nation cannot grasp the concept that is the cornerstone of our country’s foundation, that “all men are created equal.” Well, even George Washington was haunted by the inequity of the slaveholding culture in which he lived – that’s another story…

 

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com. For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.com

 

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