DETROIT (2017) – REVIEW

We have to talk about Detroit. 

As my debut to Peace and Indiependence this review could go two ways; and as i’m already bending the rules in reviewing a blockbuster feature-length It’s not the best start. However I cannot stay quiet about this film. It was gruelling, it was raw, it was intense in every sense of the word and I am obliged to talk about it.

As a white female, from a privileged background, I sat to watch this film with my friend with little to no knowledge of the riots in America, in 1967. A mis-education I am endlessly disappointed with, given the potency of the horror-crimes committed towards the black community in The USA.

The opening sequence was an animation, explaining the rising tensions of the apartheid and where it escalated from, as a kind of compact documentary- at first I didn’t really understand the stylisation, given it being a cartoon at the beginning of such a deeply rooted film.. but after the sequence had finished i found it set a strong precedence of just hot deeply rooted the picture was attached to. Kathryn Bigelow (Dir/ Prod) delicately set a tone of respect in this room of people- preparing then for the heinous atrocities incapsulated in the film. It was a kind of disclosure- the artwork was beautifully executed; if I may also add.

In the promotion of the film, John Boyega and Will Poulter were heavily featured, however it was pleasant, the fact that Boyega’s character wasn’t overly established. He was set as a third person figure, yet was still interweaving with the main action. He had his own personal struggles being a black security guard during the riots, yet no one persons’ individual journey was particularly highlighted throughout, basically voicing how black people were treated with the vicious level of inhumanity. Saying this, you do find yourself grasping at Boyegas’ characters’ innocence in the Algiers Motel Massacre. 

Bigelow does quite the opposite with Will Poulter. Krauss (Poulter) was such a distinguished shit human being right from his first few minutes on screen; it is immediately established how corrupt the white police force operated and you just result in questioning your own humanity. It was so important that the producers eloquently incapsulated the white police force involved in Algiers incident as racist scum and I feel Will Poulters’ gruelling character did this justice. He could have easily slipped into an easier, more sympathetic personality but the edge he maintained was so bloody impressive/ disgusting.

I really respect the (rumoured) decision to remove scenes involving the brutality towards the two white girls (Hannah Murray and Kaitlyn Dever.) the producers made me as an audience member feel appropriately exposed and sickened by the rapey connotations between Krauss and Devers’ character; and Murrays’ clothes being ripped from her… On top of the relentless tourture and violence, it would have been just too much for me, personally, to swallow. Nonetheless, I do believe that without making  the viewers feel this way would be a huge injustice to everyone affected in this case. The pain should be demanded in everyone witnessing- and just by the raw purity that Bigelow created with her team and cast, I don’t think a better tribute could be been produced with this art form. 

Even with the limited knowledge I have of cinematography, I knew that I liked the way the lens perceived it, for instance the way the camera worked with the bustling of the city when the anger and riot was in full capacity. The camera swung in a confused daze generating an anxiety in me, clutching the chair as I watched.  The magnification onto the actors during the intimate scenes became too close for comfort- a perfect atmosphere on Barry Akroyds’ part. Like I said, as someone that doesn’t know the details of camera work and soundscaping, to notice how those elements are making me feel, I believe I have witnessed something really special that room. I hurt. I cried. I ached. I compel you to too.

*****

Paige Janey