Thus far in the spectrum of 2017's summer movies, we've been lucky to have so many hits with very few duds. John Boyega headlines a dramatized retelling of an incident that took place during the Civil Rights Movement. Typically, I find that historic pieces rely too heavily on beating righteous morality until viewers are worn out—or remain so factual that it ultimately isn't interesting enough. Fortunately, Detroit is neither of those.
We begin with the flames of chaos burning brightly as rioting hits the streets of Detroit in the late 1960's. Amidst all of the commotion, we come across brief interludes of peace that introduce the various main characters. As the tension reaches its initial high point, it eventually funnels down to close-quarters scenes that take place inside of a hotel. While the plot itself isn't anything groundbreaking, it's the director's ability to bottle all of the outside pandemonium, and release it in a way that hits with increased intensity.
One of the biggest things that made itself evident was how close I felt. Not close in the way of intimacy, or a viewer's relationship with characters, but in proximity. The camera was often positioned very closely to the actors—sometimes to the point where it would briefly lose focus, before returning to clarity. It's almost as if being grabbed by the shoulders, and pulled in tightly—except not as an embrace, but as suffocation.
This isn't a knock on the film in any way. Instead of telling you what, or how to feel, it puts you front and center as the main witness to the atrocities that take place. Like the characters, you're stuck wishing for any possible way out. Each of the paths that the characters take often feel like a realistic option that I'd take if present in the same high stress situation. Given that I'm not the greatest decision maker, and neither are the characters, mistakes do crop up—but luckily, they aren't frustrating. For me, frustration often stems from characters making jerk decisions with no basis, reasoning or forethought a la play a stupid game, win a stupid prize. Desperation is the main battle here, and it's tough to endure.
Once the nearly two and half hour standoff is over, there isn't much in the way of relief. It'll leave you with the sentiment that there's still a lot of work that needs to be done (in the world), and that we're not too far removed from what took place. Detroit isn't a horror movie, but it will scare you. There aren't any action sequences, but bullets and explosions are plenty. Detroit may not be the best theatrical film that you can watch right now, but it very well might be the most important.
1-2: Horrendous, wouldn’t recommend watching even if free of charge.
3-4: Potentially has some good ideas, but overall still lackluster.
5-6: Average, a decently good time; go see it if it's free.
7-8: A solid recommendation, and well-rounded film; warrants a purchase after home release.
9: No glaring flaws; deserves to be watched multiple times.
10: Masterful, must-see; filmmaking at its finest.