Detroit

LetterboxD review link

In the last act of this film, the father of one of the slain young men is seen talking to a doctor. They’re talking about their children and how young children, especially young boys, are difficult to raise. They have their own paths. It’s hard to know what they’re going to get into. The doctor then, in a patronizing way, says, “I can see you want to go in there,” referring to the morgue where his son’s dead body is presumably kept. We don’t see the father walk in but his expression says everything we need to know.

Young men are primarily the focus of the bulk of this movie. Young black men. Young white men. But there are entire worlds between them. Young white police officers have authority and control. Young black men have aspirations and dreams but lack a voice.

This film was difficult to watch. The violence was a lot to handle. The story telling was not very tight. The camera work and cinematography was claustrophobic, disjointed and hard to follow. But the subject matter was important as ever.

There’s also some fundamental awareness lacking in the story, I think. In a promotional interview, actor Will Poulter, who plays the most vile of the white police officers says that there’s no logic behind racism. That in preparation for this role he found his characters motivation to be “mythological.” The simplicity of this statement (albeit this is the actor not the film writer or director speaking) betrays a lack of understanding of how racism works. Racists don’t have those beliefs or act the way they do out of sheer ignorance. There are centuries long forces at play, including social policy, tradition, institutional forces, the government, politics and much more. In the same way, the depiction of black men in this film, felt trite and hollow. It’s a high degree of difficult to pull off this story in a new, compelling, holistic way. Detroit was a valiant, if ultimately unsuccessful, try.