While watching DETROIT I also kept thinking about the documentary THE THIN BLUE LINE, and even Kurosawa's RASHOMON (me and my cinematic mind). But mainly I kept thinking about how gifted Kathryn Bigelow is as a filmmaker. Her eye for detail is amazing! Once the movie started I could not blink. And I became a fly on the wall during the raid at the Algiers Motel.
DETROIT opens up with how the riots started. A welcome home party for a couple of Vietnam vets gets crashed by the police because the building did not have a liquor license. Weak, but I guess that's 1967 for ya! So Detroit's finest fill 3 paddy wagons full of African Americans and send them off. The excessive act sets off the riots leaving Motor City a war zone.
Some time has passed but there is still unrest and a curfew, state police and national guard are helping city police.
In the first act of the film there are three storylines going on:
Three racist police officers are out on patrol, and one of them shoots and kills a defenseless looter. His superior turns the case to the DA.
Next we meet a young man pulling a triple shift working as a security guard to protect a grocery store. This character, played by John Boyega (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, ATTACK THE BLOCK) stole the show for me. His character Melvin Dismukes brings a level headedness to all the terror and chaos happening in the film. Expect to see a nomination come Oscar time
And lastly we meet a group of young talented singers called The Dramatics. They are just about to perform in front of their biggest crowd yet, when all of a sudden the police shut it down because of some rioting. Because of the chaos the group shack up at the Algiers Motel.
Larry, lead singer of the group and his friend Fred meet two lovely young ladies (maybe hookers?). The four of them go back to the room where the ladies are staying. Turns out that the room already has a party going on. Things get tense when a young gentleman gets distraught at all the racist police. Trying to scare some of people in the room by making a point, he shoots off a starter pistol.
A block or two away police and national guardsmen think they are under attack by a sniper. Back up is called and the racist cops we met earlier take the call (uh-oh). And being a hero, Dismukes locks up the grocery store and goes to help (uh-oh again).
The raid on the Algiers Motel takes place in about the middle of the film, and it is without a doubt the strongest act in the movie. Here is where Bigelow's background in genre filmmaking comes into play. The raid is intense and you feel like you're watching a horror movie!
Unfortunately, DETROIT starts to become a little long in the tooth in the third act of the film. It's still a good movie but the trial of the 3 police officers just felt off? Or maybe it was the fact that I had a feeling how badly things were going to end with a jury of all white people deciding the fate of the officers! And when it got to the end of the film I started to think to myself "There was no 'Based On True Events' title card at the beginning of the movie"? Odd?
My only complaint about the film is that I wish it was based more on true events. The end of the movie states that there just wasn't enough evidence in the Algiers incident, and they had to dramatize most of it. If the filmmakers were able to accomplish this I think DETROIT would have been even better! With that being said, the fact remains that 3 young black men were murdered and no justice was found!
Now you know why I thought of films like THE THIN BLUE LINE and RASHOMON.
DETROIT is Highly Recommended!!