Richard and CP24 anchor Nathan Downer have a look at the weekend’s new movies including “The Dark Tower,” the eco-documentary “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” the latest Kathryn Bigelow film “Detroit” and the culinary road trip of “The Trip to Spain.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies including “The Dark Tower,” the eco-documentary “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” and the latest Kathryn Bigelow film “Detroit.”
A new feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “The Dark Tower,” the eco-documentary “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” and the latest Kathryn Bigelow film “Detroit.”
Richard sits in with CKTB morning show host Tim Denis to discuss the weekend’s flickers including “The Dark Tower,” the eco-documentary “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” and the latest Kathryn Bigelow film “Detroit.”
Hollywood has a long tradition of bending history to suit their stories.
For instance the title of the historical disaster film Krakatoa: East of Java is a geographical head-scratcher. Krakatoa was actually west of Java. In 10,000 BC woolly mammoths are used as labour to build the pyramids in Egypt. That’s Hollywood history. Woolly mammoths weren’t desert creatures and the pyramids weren’t built until 2500 BC. Then there’s Mel Gibson’s wardrobe from the future in Braveheart. The movie is set in the late 13th century, but the kilts he wears didn’t come into existence until 300 years later.
The movie theatre is definitely not Mr. Parker’s history class.
Detroit, the new film from Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow, aims to bring historical accuracy back to the big screen. The movie focuses on the Algiers Motel Incident, the most infamous episode of the Detroit riots of the summer of 1967. The shocking story details how young African-American men and women sought the safety of the motel only to come under fire from police who handled them as revolutionaries. When it was done three young African-America men lay dead, shot, allegedly at close range. None of the officers charged with the Algiers murders were convicted.
“The Algiers Motel is a real American tragedy,” says Bigelow. “One of the most important aspects of preparing this movie was to spend time with the people who actually lived it.”
Filming this important slice of history brings with it the responsibility of getting it right. To that end Bigelow, screenwriter and former journalist Mark Boal and investigative reporter David Zeman, did considerable research. “My marching orders were to find as many of the principles as I could who could tell us something about their perspective on what happened,” said Zeman.
That may be so, but even the best-researched true-life drama brings with it a degree of artistic licence. Take for instance Bigelow’s last movie, Zero Dark Thirty. She called it a “reported film,” suggesting it existed somewhere in the murky middle between drama and documentary, yet it drew fire from critics (including the CIA) who felt it exaggerated the enhanced interrogation techniques allegedly used in the search for Bin Laden. So despite the opening credit claim that the movie was “Based on Firsthand Accounts of Actual Events” it may have fudged some facts.
So while there’s nothing in Detroit as egregious as Season of the Witch’s plague outbreak 76 years before the Black Death struck, it will not be a 100 per cent true and accurate representation of real life — it’s not possible. What it can do, however, is open a dialogue about the past, and in Detroit’s case, the present.
In a statement Charles Ferrell, the director of public programs of Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History said the film, “echoes the current proliferation of extra-judicial fatal shootings of African Americans by police who have been exonerated and highlights the major issue of criminal police violence and racial injustice that this nation must face and resolve through dialogue and corrective actions.”
Perhaps instead of looking at Detroit as a historical document it might be better used as a springboard for further study and conversation into the systemic racism that allowed the Algiers Motel Incident to happen and why so little has changed in the intervening years.
There is a disclaimer at the end of “Detroit,” Kathryn Bigelow’s latest look back at our recent history. Before the final credits roll a title card reads something to the effect that the details of the bloody Algiers Motel Incident, the most infamous episode of the Detroit riots of the summer of 1967, were pieced together from available sources and eye witness accounts.
It reminds us that what we have just seen is an interpretation of history and not a strict, unequivocal statement of fact. The title card may be a reaction to the backlash that followed Bigelow last film “Zero Dark Thirty.” She called that film, a look at the decade long hunt for Osama bin Laden, a “reported film,” suggesting it existed somewhere in the murky middle between drama and documentary. Despite her claim the film drew fire from critics (including the CIA) who felt it exaggerated the enhanced interrogation techniques allegedly used in the search for Bin Laden.
Her new film is every bit as provocative but whereas “Zero Dark Thirty” felt of its time, “Detroit,” despite its 1967 setting, feels ripped from the headlines. It uses historical fact and dramatization as an urgent plea for further study and conversation into the systemic racism that enabled Detroit police to murder three young African American men and why so little has changed in the intervening years.
The film begins with a police raid of an unlicensed nightclub filled with African American men and women enjoying a drink, some music and each other’s company. Manhandling men and women alike the raid attracts the attention of the entire neighbourhood. As club goers are forced into paddy wagons for the crime of congregating and having a drink, cries of “You can’t do that,” erupt into rage and the frustrated shouts change to “Burn it down.” A riot breaks out leading to looting, curfews and mass arrests.
The story splinters to introduce Philip Krauss (Will Poulter), a racist trigger-happy Detroit cop who justifies gunning down a man who stole a bag of groceries because, “They’re destroying the city.”
Nearby are Larry Cleveland Reed (Algee Smith) and Fred Temple (Jacob Latimore), a wannabe Motown singer and his best friend respectively. When Larry’s big debut at the Fox Theatre is scuttled because of the riot outside the theatre’s doors he Fred head to the Algiers, a nearby hotel, “until all this slows down.”
The laid back vibe at the Algiers seems a million miles away from the violence on the street, which by this point has seen 3200 people arrested and blocks of Detroit burned to the ground. Larry and Fred meet some girls (Hannah Murray and Kaitlyn Dever), listen to John Coltrane and feel safe until another resident, Carl Cooper (Jason Mitchell), shoots a starter’s pistol out the window. “We should teach those pigs a lesson,” he says. The police below, including Krauss, think a sniper is shooting at them and invade the building, guns drawn. By the time their “investigation” is done three young African-America men lay dead, shot at close range.
The lone uniformed voice of reason comes from Melvin Dismukes (John Boyega), a security guard in a grocery store down the street from the Algiers who tries his best to prevent bloodshed.
“Detroit” is an uncomfortable, gruelling watch. The physical intimidation, racially based violence, murders utilized against Reed, Temple and others as they plead innocence, is sickening. “I will kill you one by one until I find out what’s happening here,” says Krauss. Using psychological games and hard-core interrogation tactics he (and a handful of others) terrorizes his suspects and it is gut wrenching. Bigelow has a historical POV setting up the story and in the subsequent court case but her handling of the interrogation sequences is pure psychological horror. Claustrophobic and violent, it is as compelling as it is abhorrent.
Bigelow uses archival footage and stills to set the stage but it is a combo of her kinetic, muscular filmmaking and strong performances that make an impression. Boyega channels a young Denzel Washington, radiating decency while Poulter is a snarling ogre who revels in the powerlessness and dehumanization of his victims. As a paratrooper recently returned from Vietnam Anthony Mackie is a stoic presence amid the chaos.
Best of the bunch is Algee Smith as the young singer whose dreams are crushed when the Fox Theatre is evacuated just before his debut. While the dirty cops assert that “one bad minute shouldn’t define their lives,” it is through Smith’s performance that the long term effects of the Algiers event are the most tangible. The repercussions of that vicious, lawless night echo throughout his psyche, changing him forever.
The story in “Detroit” is fifty years old but the names of Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Michael Brown Jr., Ezell Ford, Dante Parker or any number of others who have been killed at the hands of the police in recent times, echo throughout.