Detroit Blu-ray Review
With every awards season comes the predictable grumblings of snubs. It generally happens around the workplace water coolers (if those are still a thing) and within critics circles across the country. But it happens more commonly right after the Oscars nominees are announced. Generally commentators go category-by-category to nitpick the Academy’s decisions. While I certainly had names and movies in mind when it came to 2018’s snubs, there was one film that I believe was grossly overlooked, especially since it didn’t nab a single nomination.
DETROIT is nothing short of powerful, but is an absolutely gut-wrenching experience. The film begins as a history lesson on race relations in America before transitioning into 1967. We watch the beginnings and full-on explosion of the Detroit race riots. The film brutally crescendos when the Detroit Police Department becomes involved in an incident at the Algiers Motel. You’d be hard pressed to find someone not emotionally impacted by the scenes inside that motel as racial slurs are heaved, guns are pointed in the faces of scared innocents and a relentless atrocity begins to take shape.
DETROIT is genuine in its shock and very few films have truly ever rattled me like this one. Halfway through the film I had to pause and mentally collect myself. I washed a few dishes, put on a rerun of a show on Netflix and detoxed, only to dive back in after a good 30 minutes. It’s an exercise in a filmgoer’s tolerance for vicious bigotry. It’s all the more horrifying knowing this allegedly happened. It’s compounded by the fact that there is no happy ending and justice never comes. As a white man, I can only imagine how much more disturbing this film is for people of color, especially those who have felt judging eyes and the potential fear that comes from any situation involving a police officer.
DETROIT never directly or subtlety makes a connection between the events of this film and any modern day fatal shootings by police officers. Parallels could certainly be drawn, even without this film, between the events in Detroit in 1967, and events in Ferguson in 2014, or Baltimore in 2015, or any other scenario where years of social and financial depression have created a city-wide powderkeg. Director Kathryn Bigelow’s commentary may come in the form of this film’s documentary-style approach. In that approach she forces viewers to confront a disgusting chapter of history, like a red flag warning viewers for the potential that these events could happen again, or are still happening.
Bigelow, along with an outstanding ensemble cast, packages a raw and unflinching vision in DETROIT. Performances by Algee Smith, Will Poulter, Anthony Mackie, and others help ground this movie into reality. Some of their scenes are some of the most upsetting, yet riveting moments ever seen on film. Up and down, the Academy could have highlighted several accolades, but in a year with GET OUT, and much more palatable films, maybe the cards weren’t in Bigelow’s favor. She proves once again that she’s a formidable force behind the camera. If you have the stomach and emotional willpower, DETROIT will give you a haunting history lesson.
Video: (1080p HD Widescreen 1:85:1) Because of Bigelow’s shaky cam technique, a lot of the actually quality of the film feels lacking. However when things are steady, you do notice the film’s outstanding production design. The quality may good, but it’s hidden underneath the filmmaking style.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The balancing of the audio is flawless. From the violence and sound overload in the riots to the quietness of the motel before disaster, the audio blends seamlessly from scene to scene without a need for the remote control.
The Truth of Detroit (2:08): This’ll be a common complaint I have for each of the features on this blu-ray, but this is way too short. We have cast, crew, and the people who lived that given a minimal amount of time to talk about something that deserves at least a half an hour.
The Cast of Detroit (2:08): A cast, well deserving of several accolades, is clearly giving lengthy, in-depth interviews, but they’ve been whittled down to bare essentials to fit into this unnecessarily short feature.
The Invasion of Detroit (2:11): One of the problems with these features appears to be that they were created pre-release. Instead of being reflective and meditative, it’s simply a collection of short videos from an electronic press kit.
The Hope of Detroit (1:14): This “feature” feels more like a trailer than anything remotely informational.
Detroit – Then and Now (1:33): The only thing differentiating this feature from others is that you see video of modern day Detroit.
Algee Smith and Larry Reed: “Grow” (3:35): This feature is about the film’s original song, “Grow,” which in some regards, you could make the case was snubbed as well. If 50 SHADES OF GREY can get nominated for a best Oscar for its original song, surely the Academy could have nominated a meaningful gospel song birthed in the face of tragedy.