Detroit Review

Director Kathryn Bigelow was inspired to unearth this event by the Ferguson (MO) riots (Aug. 2014) where an unarmed black teenager was fatally shot by a white police officer.

And in a way, that’s the most depressing thing about Detroit. update everyone’s fashion sense, throw in a few smartphones and you could very well be setting this in 2017. The more things change…

Now, for the 12 people who actually watched The Hurt Locker, for which Bigelow won the award for Best Director; and, as of 2017, The Hurt Locker is still the sole film by a female director to win that Award. Your going to find a very similar shooting style.

Because using a style she first adopted with The Hurt Locker, director Kathryn Bigelow deployed three or four cameras at a time, keeping them in constant motion around the actors. Bigelow preferred to light the entire set to give the performers more flexibility to move around. She didn’t block a scene for the camera by plotting out a series of close-ups and wide shots, instead filming everything in a few takes to keep the emotions as raw as possible. “After two or three takes, I have it,” she said.

Or, if your having trouble with that, try imagining a Jason Bourne movie made by your history teacher.

Essentially, we are given a limited understanding of the situation and then dropped in the middle of things and left to get on with it. Characters don’t monologue about their past or have little phrases about them appear on screen the first time they turn up meaning that at times it’s a little disconcerting trying to work out who everyone is and how they’ve come to be here and empathizing with them can be difficult to start with although towards the end if your not screaming with silent rage at the screen then I don’t know what to say.

Because it’s easy to mock Detroit and make Robocop jokes but, the film shows us a world where a police officer can shoot a man and be back on the beat a few hours later. Where brutal violence is seemingly consequence free depending on the color of your skin. And again, it would be almost effortless to update this to 2017.

Essentially, this movie is based on the Algiers Motel incident during Detroit’s 1967 12th Street Riot, which prior to this film I’d never heard of. And that’s quite a limiting idea when you think about it. Taking a citywide riot which was an inevitable result of systemic racism and took place over several nights and choosing to focus on it’s most notorious aspect- that three teenage civilians, all of them black, were beaten and killed by police. Nine others—two white females and seven black males—were badly beaten and humiliated by members of a riot task force composed of the Detroit Police Department, the Michigan State Police, and the Michigan Army National Guard, and a private security guard.

Now that is still a lot to work with and  Bigelow does a good job of getting all the characters in one place, and then forcing us to watch as the ensuing brutal events emerge almost inevitably as no-one seems willing or able to stop a train that left the station long ago.

Now, i’m not normally a fan of the Jason Bourne style of shooting a film but here it seems a perfect fit. It’s gritty and raw, making it seem like no character is safe or, if they do escape that the events of that night will stay with them forever.

Detroit can seem a little dry at times and spending ten minutes fleshing out the characters before the film gets going proper would have helped the emotional gut-punch that happens throughout the second act. It does nothing wrong, but it could have done more things right.

And why it was released at the height of blockbuster season is simply beyond me.

It needs ten more minutes to be spent developing the characters in the first act and ether another 15 minutes on it’s third act or to spin that off into a different film.

As is?

It’s a solid film but more workmanlike than the passion project this needed to be, with material that sadly seems like it won’t be out of date in another 50 years.

My Score- See It 

 

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The Big Sick



“The Best rom-com this decade” screamed the poster

“The best date movie of 2017” was the follow up.

“97%” Said Rotten Tomatoes.

So, I decided it was high time to treat the light of my life to something she doesn’t do very often and take her to the cinema! After some nice Thai and a few cocktails we settled in to watch a pretty funny romantic comedy.

It’s not 97% but even an old grouch like myself can state that it’s a hell of a lot better than most of the romantic comedies I’ve sat through. Its the old story of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, girl falls into coma, boy hangs around with her family whilst dealing with the expectations of his.

And it’s funny, we were both laughing away at various points but sadly, the scenes where we were clearly supposed to have tears in our eyes we just didn’t. Part of the issue is in the main character Kumail,  played by Kumail Nanjiani who also co-wrote the script and upon who’s experiences the story is based.

I’ll be blunt. If his character had gotten any wetter I could wring him out every time I needed to water the garden. Look, I’m English and most days I apologize for getting up but even I don’t apologize as much as this guy. I’ve met doormats with more spine and jellyfish who can do heartbreak better than the main guy. He’s great in the funny scenes and his stand-up looks pretty good, but whenever he’s required to actually act, he’s as wooden as my desk.

Which, given that he’s in almost every frame of this film is kind of an issue. And, the massive amount of screen-time he’s given means that the other characters really don’t have any chance to develop beyond one note characters. You’ve got the mum who just wants her son to marry a nice Pakistani girl, a dad and brother who are sort of there and even Emily, the girl at the center of the film doesn’t really get much development. She’s studying to be a therapist, and er…. can apparently afford a seriously nice apartment whilst a student.

Like I say, I did laugh a lot at this film and it’s a better date movie than almost anything out at the moment but the second best movie of the year after Get Out? What am I missing?

The dramatic scenes fall flat because I don’t know any of these people and the main guy has trouble doing anything that’s not looking awkward and apologizing. Is it in the clash of cultures? And how Kumail has found himself torn between two cultures and now has to chose between the life he wants and the life his parents want for him? Ok, SO DEVELOP THAT IDEA!!!! Or an idea! Is it that he didn’t know what he had until it was gone and is now being a better boyfriend to Emily now that she’s in a coma then he ever was when she was conscious? Then DEVELOP THAT IDEA!!! Is it about her parents trying to cope in a strange city with a strange man whilst their only child lies dying in a coma from a mysterious disease? Great, except House finished years ago.

This film has so many good ideas that it can’t seem to make up it’s mind as to what it wants to be about. It made me laugh but not care, characters beliefs and personalities seem to change on a moments notice and the culture clash comedy seems neutered.

But maybe my heart is just a Norwegian Blue that’s pining for the fjords or i’m culturally insensitive or I ask too much of quite a simple and really well meaning film about finding yourself. and working out what  you want to do with this journey called life.

I just wished that the film could have found some teeth and done something slightly deeper than it actually did. But to my mind, Bend it like Beckham did this sort of culture clash comedy better all the way back in 2002.

A good laugh but a shallow as a puddle and with a leading man who struggles at times The Big Sick is more of an upset stomach.

My Score- If Nothing Else