There’s a brief sliver of hope near the end of Detroit, right when the jury is about to announce that the verdicts of the three police officers on trial for murder, that the battered and beaten African American males and two white girls will receive vindication. That maybe, just maybe, the U.S. isn’t as racially charged and biased as we believe and that the police aggressors will be rightfully convicted of their heinous crimes.
But then the verdict is announced and we’re angry with ourselves for ever thinking anything else but complete injustice could happen. The police officers walk out scot-free, leaving the city of Detroit to rebuild itself in their wake. It’s harrowing but completely expected, a newer version of a tale so old we can recite in in our sleep. But Kathryn Bigelow knows just how to make familiar nightmares seem brand new.
Detroit is the best movie I’ve ever seen that I so badly wanted to end. I was nauseous and on the verge of vomiting, an experience so uncomfortable but oh so necessary. Bigelow’s camera follows the fuse of civil unrest, giving a 360-degree view of the city from every angle as burns into the motor city night.
The most harrowing portion of the film is during the interrogation at a motel, where multiple African American men are being harassed, abused, beaten and even killed by police officers for hours. This is the portion that you quite literally want to end. Bigelow has a gift for heightening our senses during this scene. Our legs literally feel tired as if we’ve been standing with these men and women with our hands on the wall. The air of the theater begins to percolate with the sweat and blood of the victims. It’s a visceral, out-of-body moviegoing experience, not enjoyable in any sense, but completely rewarding in its own right.
There are no immediate faults present in Bigelow’s story, her characters or her directorial style. Every actor pours their heart and soul into their characters, with John Boyega and Will Poulter earning honorary spots as some of the best heros and villains seen in 21st century film. The only apparent flaw, and its more of a preferance than an inherent mistake, is the presence of John Krazinski. He does a great job with his character but seeing a face as famous as his suddenly appear takes us out of the experience. As you leave the theater, you’ll feel wounded but not defeated, stumbling into the streets knowing that you’re ok and still alive, but that you’re going to get knocked down again, no matter how many times in the past you’ve brought yourself back up.