Originally Published On Salty Popcorn
The film is based on a true story, and it’s a story that will leaving a lasting impact. Or at least, it’s a true story that’s supposedly true, taken from the real life accounts of the victims but never proven in the eyes of the law or the history records. DETROIT’s title cards explain the situation better than I can, but no matter whether or not the details remain factual, the story presented is an important one you’re not likely to forget. We’re taken back to the 1967 Detroit riots, where prejudices were high and battalions of white police officers used violent means to get what they desired out of the black residents. The riots lasted a week, and the film focuses in on just one of the many atrocities that took place.
While the events that may, or may not, have taken place in that motel occurred in the 60s, they remain just, if not more, relevant today than ever. There’s plenty of good in this world, I’ve seen it first hand, but as it currently stands, this place is very, very flawed. Racism, sexism and homophobia should be a thing of the past, but they’re not. They remain very prominent, especially with a self indulgent Nazi-supporting madman running the United States. The world is a cruel, unfair place, where violence seems to be the answer against unjustifiable prejudices, but this simply is not okay. It’s not. We, as people, struggle to learn, and while many might see film as an escapism (which it is), it often holds with it a much larger significance on our society. It can influence, and this film attempts to do just that.
Kathryn Bigelow directs it to sheer perfection. It’s a visceral, unrelenting two and a half hours of sheer terror and violence. She implements a very jolting, hand held camera style that I’m often not a fan of, and even wasn’t for the first act (or so) here, but once the sequences at the motel come into play, this camera work takes on another level. You become immersed in the circumstance. It drains your soul of life and leaves you helpless, head against a wall as this film plays a game with your mind, much like with the actual characters, and Bigelow is the perfect director for the job. What she evokes from her actors, and furthermore the audience, is breathtaking. Expect to see this film winning big during award’s season.
As for negatives… DETROIT does have a few. Outside of the aforementioned cinematography issues, there’s also a serious pacing issue. The first hour is dedicated to setting up characters and explaining their circumstances, but a little too much time is dedicated to it, especially in comparison to how much time is spent in the motel. Clocking it at 143 minutes, this is a long movie, and it feels like it. You get a stretched out first act, followed by an equally long second act, then a somewhat tighter third. And it’s not like every scene from the first act was necessary, either, as plenty could certainly have been trimmed down to save the runtime.
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