“The middle of the movie is definitely the movie.”
I remember seeing the trailer for Detroit and not really knowing what the plot of the movie was. Well yesterday I actually saw the movie, and I realized that the trailer did a great job with the material it was given. Detroit is a movie about racism. You can say that it is about one specific instance (one instance is focused on more than others), but really it’s a catch-all movie about the racial climate of Detroit in the 60’s.
Detroit starts off and I really couldn’t get a read on the plot. The movie starts by showing the police raiding an illegal bar (really just people having a party), but then quickly switches to follow a few different characters as they live their lives. This portion of the movie is very scatterbrained, and unfortunately it may put some people off immediately. What we are being shown (racism, racial profiling, terrible living conditions) is very powerful stuff, but unfortunately the way it is presented leaves a lot to be desired. Detroit seemingly tried to cast a very wide net, following as many characters and stories as it could, and because of this it had to keep changing the focus of the plot. This led to confusion, which led to me not being interested in anything I was seeing. That being said, I will say that even the beginning of Detroit had this constant sense of unease. It wasn’t full-blown intensity, but there was this constant worry that something could go horribly wrong at any minute. This feeling evolves when we get to the actual movie.
The middle of Detroit is the part of the movie that everyone is going to remember. Hell, I just saw the movie yesterday and already the only part I really remember is the middle section. Detroit will live and die by this section of the movie, and let’s hope it gets recognized. This section of the movie is where everything comes together. All of those characters the beginning was following around? They are now all in a shitty situation together, and we have a front-row seat. This portion of the movie follows the events that occur at a hotel, after the National Guard took fire from a sniper a couple of blocks away. What we see is some police trying to get to the bottom of who shot at the National Guard, but what we really see are a bunch of racists abusing their power to kick the shit out of some black people. Detroit didn’t really mean much to me until this portion of the film started. Everything about this portion of the movie is top-notch. The direction is great, the writing is great, and the performances are fucking stellar. Seriously, I expected people like John Boyega and Anthony Mackie to be good, but they exceeded all of my expectations. To top that off we also got to see a lot of unfamiliar faces which really added to the immersion as well; and they all did fucking amazing jobs. And of course you have Will Poulter and his band of merry racists fucking bringing it home as well. It’s been while since a character in a movie has made me feel sick to my stomach, but Will Poulter accomplished just that. Seriously, if there are no awards given to this cast it will be a bigger travesty than the real event that Detroit was based on. While watching this middle part of Detroit there is no time to relax, the movie has you on edge for the entirety of it. Whenever I could break away from the screen even just a second I realized that my heart was going a mile a minute. A movie hasn’t gotten that real of a reaction out of me since The Witch; and that move was explicitly a horror film.
Unfortunately after this amazing sequence, the movie kind of falls back to its old habits and becomes unfocused again. The characters part ways and we once again have to follow several different story lines. This is arguably more egregious this time around, because by now we actually care about the characters we are seeing. Instead of getting closure on some of these stories they are kind of ushered off to the side while we look at something else. I will say that I liked the courtroom portion of this part of the film, if only for John Krasinski’s performance. Seriously, that guy is amazing at playing a complete cunt. The movie ends with some title cards giving you closure on most of the characters, but I still wish the movie had been structured differently to include a more focused story line.
Overall Detroit is a very good movie, but it does have some issues. The beginning and the end of the film both have issues with focus, but that is understandable (though not excusable) due to the scope of the film. The middle of the movie is definitely the movie. With wonderful performances, great direction, and non-stop intensity that will make your heart race, the middle of Detroit is definitely what I will remember about this movie.
I give Detroit a B