By Josh Tarpley
One of the unexpected pleasures of this Oscar season is that two of our biggest films of the year will have been seen and considered by the first week of August. On one hand we have “Dunkirk,” the Christopher Nolan epic that took audiences by storm, jumping to the top of Oscar watchers’ predictions. On the other hand, we have Kathryn Bigelow’s highly anticipated “Detroit.” With a limited opening this week and a wide release scheduled for August 4th, the first wave of screenings and reviews have hit the web.
Click beyond the jump to read the first reactions to “Detroit.”
With 29 reviews submitted, “Detroit” is at the coveted 100% with an average rating of 8.1/10. While that may be exciting for film fans, it sounds as if “Detroit” might be the hardest Bigelow film to watch (and this is her follow up to a film accused of praising torture). The thread running through most reviews is that “Detroit” does not shy away from portraying racism in its entirety during the Detroit riots of 1967, with the term “horror movie” being used a lot.
“Ms. Bigelow and Mark Boal, the screenwriter (who collaborated with her on “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty”), train their focus on two aspects of the Detroit story: the day-to-day texture of working-class black life and the operations of white supremacy in conditions of emergency. Balancing those concerns is no easy task, and the filmmakers don’t take an easy route through their material. “Detroit,” like its namesake city, is populous and contradictory, with dozens of significant characters competing for attention as richly detailed scenes swell in crescendos of desperate suspense and sickening brutality.”
Collider’s Matt Golberg makes clear that while the modern day comparisons are apt, the film seeks to make a larger point,
“The easy way to describe Detroit is that even though the film is about events from July 25, 1967, it’s also clearly about events that have been in the headlines—police brutality, racial injustice, and the difficulty in (and perhaps impossibility of) resolving these tensions. And yet to simply say that Detroit is about “right now” is to miss its larger point that this conflict has been going on for centuries. It may be making headlines and blowing up social media these days, but it’s an issue we’ve refused to confront, and for white people it’s been far too easy to dismiss. Although the film is hard to watch as police officers cruelly assault black people, it demands to be seen, experienced, and endured rather than the tweet or the one-off news story we can quickly flip past.”
Drew McWeeny, over at Tracking Board, writes that the film serves a great purpose of educating the public, even if it doesn’t totally work as movie,
“Still, there’s no denying that what matters most here — the horrible human hurricane that happens inside the Annex — is presented in a way that is almost unbearably tense. In those rooms, in that building, in the heart of the movie, Bigelow is able to summon real thunder, and while Detroit may not ultimately work as a whole, it does serve a purpose. When it holds an ugly mirror up to the worst of what we can be, it is important that we learn how to look into that mirror rather than look away, and it is only by telling stories like this one that we can ever hope to keep them from playing out on an endless loop.”
Vox’s Allison Wilkinson praises John Boyega’s performance as his character goes through an emotional transition throughout the film,
“Throughout the film, the most complex and troubling character is Boyega’s Dismukes, a black security officer who initially places himself on the side of the police in an effort to defuse the situation and protect other black civilians from being unduly targeted. But as he watches, participates, and later realizes just what his role was in the proceedings, he grows increasingly sickened by it all…Boyega’s fine performance telegraphs most of Dismukes’s growing dismay through his eyes, as he slowly realizes the system he counted on to treat everyone equally under the law simply isn’t going to do so. And that’s mirrored in Raynor’s performance, as an officer drawn into taking actions he’d never have otherwise because a colleague insisted it was necessary.”
You can read our own Matt Neglia’s review here, he also summed up his thoughts succinctly on social media, tweeting out “If “Selma” were a horror film it’d be #Detroit. It’s a harrowing and terrifying film with deep emotional resonance. The cast is incredible!!”
What do you guys think? Does it sound like “Detroit” will be the awards player we all think it will be? Let us know in the comments below!
You can follow Josh and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @JoshTarpley7