From Kathryn Bigelow, the award-winning director of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, comes the gripping story of one of the most terrifying secrets in American history. John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) plays a Detroit security guard caught in the crossfire after a late-night police raid sparks a wave of violence that spirals out of control. Featuring masterful supporting performances by Will Poulter (The Revenant), Algee Smith (Earth to Echo), Jacob Latimore (The Maze Runner), John Krasinski ("The Office") and Anthony Mackie (Captain America: Civil War), Detroit is a "visceral thriller" (Rafer Guzman,Newsday) that "demands to be seen" (Matt Goldberg, Collider).
There are a few select films that I very much like, but had such a visceral experience watching, that I can honestly say I will never watch again. Requiem for A Dream is one that people say they can only watch once, and I would have to agree. It is a startlingly real look at drug addiction that takes its viewers on an all too real, and sometimes nasty, journey that I can honestly say I only want to go on once. That same visceral reaction is what director Kathryn Bigelow has achieved with her newest film -- Detroit -- a movie that forces its viewers to look at racial prejudice in such a mean and sadistic way that it evoked such a violent reaction from me, which makes me never want to experience it again.
The film centers around the Detroit riots, specifically what took place at the Alger's Hotel on July 23, 1967. Immediately we are thrust into the actual events without much setup. After a starter pistol is fired as a gag, a series of heinous acts occur in reaction to the pistol shot by police officers that is a true picture of what can happen when the wrong people are put in a position of power and left unchecked. The majority of it is done by Phillip Krauss (Will Polter), who shows his true colors and devious inner prejudices after he ascends to a position of power over the inhabitants of the hotel.
Many different characters come into play during the raid on the Alger and the riots that ensued, with John Boyega's character of Melvin Dismukes, and Antony Mackie's Greene being the highlights. Melvin, in particular, gets the most depth as a rent-a-cop that is smarter than he lets on. He gets mixed up with both sides, sympathizing with his brethren inside the Alger while recognizing his inevitable doom if he lets that show with the officers outside. And if we look at the ways officers talk to Melvin while he fetches coffees, we get insight on their prejudice without them even noticing it. The viewer sees that black rights were so much less than they are today, and small scenes like this give us the context for the time and struggle that the black culture went through.
Detroit is probably the most intense, punch-to-the-gut movie I have seen this year. It infuriated me to see innocent people tortured in such a sadistic way by people in authority who are supposed to uphold the law. Unfortunately, that same tension does not carry throughout the entire film. Once the event is over, and we get into the third act, where we face the repercussions of the incident, the pacing drags. On the other hand, we also face an almost nonexistent first act setting up the events that led up to the riot. To the untrained eye, you would think the events happened rather quickly and without build up, when in reality there was a lot of tension in the city, and in our society in general, in 1967 revolving around black rights, which has similarities to what we are experiencing today in 2018. But slow pacing doesn’t diminish the fact that some of the same problems here are still present in today’s society in different ways. Detroit forces its viewers to look at those issues head-on and shows us what happens when people who are prejudiced are in power and the sadistic acts that can occur.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Fox bring Detroit to Blu-ray with a slipcover to hardcover casing. Enclosed is a BD-50 Blu-ray, DVD copy, and Ultraviolet Digital HD Download code. Once you hit play, you can skip a series of trailers before arriving at a still image main menu that lets you navigate from there.
Detroit brings home the grit on Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encode that is true to its source material. Framed at a 1:85.1 aspect ratio, Detroit was shot digitally with an Arri Alexa Mini camera and mastered in a 2K intermediate. This is a heavily (at times) grainy, gritty, jittery film that offers more detailed textures than one would think. Facial features and environments get the most significant amount of detail, while the Alger itself exudes dingy textures that make it feel authentic and of the time. The majority of this film takes place in the span of one night. Add in dark and dingy color palette, and we get some pretty inky black levels. Detroit may not be the shiniest transfer in your collection, but it is a faithful one that carries the tone of the film accurately.
Detroit raids your home theater with a startling 5.1 DTS-HD MA track that adds a great deal to the immersion of the film. Detroit’s action is startlingly shocking, and can seemingly come out of nowhere. This mix delivers that same shocking quality perfectly, having scenes of great tension that erupt from your speakers with authority. The LFE stays incredibly silent until shooting off with a concussive blast that rattles your walls and echoes through your surrounds. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout and levels tend to be quite generous. This is a dynamic mix that works in service of the film to create an immersive experience that will stick with its audience for days to come.
The Truth of Detroit (HD 2:08) – A short feature that goes into the true events that took place at the Alger hotel.
The Cast of Detroit (HD 2:11) – Interview style feature that allows the cast to explore their characters in the film.
The Invasion of Detroit (HD 2:06) – A brief assessment of the police state of Detroit at the time and now.
Detroit- Then and Now (HD 1:33) – A comparison of things that have changed for Detroit, and things that have stayed the same.
Algee Smith and Larry Reed: Grow (HD 3:35) – A sit down where they both discuss their hopes for Detroit, and the changes they hope it will bring.
Theatrical Trailer (HD 2:27)
When Detroit was released last July, there was much debate about whether or not the film exploited our current political climate and/or was unnecessarily grotesque. I do see both sides, while falling more on the side of this being a necessary watch. As much as Detroit challenges its audience to look at the violence on screen in an unflinching way, it does not come across as damning modern day law enforcement or exploiting violence. To me, it comes across as a cautionary tale that teaches us what happens when people in power (or an everyday person) become blinded by bigotry to such an extent that human life becomes a non-issue. And for that, I feel like this film could be viewed ten or twenty years from now and still hold weight and relevance. As for this release, it has a solid transfer with an exceptional audio mix. Recommended.