2017 is shaping up to be an incredible year for female directors, we’ve already gotten some strong films by Mira Nair, Patty Jenkins, and Sofia Coppola. We’ve also got the upcoming Mudbound, directed by Dee Rees. And then, just to top it all of, we have Kathryn Bigelow, the only woman (so far) to win the Oscar. for Best Director.
What I find interesting about Bigelow is that she makes the kinds of films that you wouldn’t associate with having a female director. Her films are gritty and intense, with male-dominant casts. And in the case of Detroit in particular, it becomes hard to believe that a white woman directed this. But there’s no denying that her direction is simply astonishing.
The movie Detroit is a paradox. Because it is, without a doubt, one of the hardest movies I’ve ever had to sit through in my life. But it’s also the best film I’ve seen so far this year.
Much like Bigelow’s earlier work, Detroit resembles a documentary in the way it’s shot, with a very effective use of shaky cam that puts us right in the moment. The only problem is, it’s not a moment you want to be in at all.
From the first frame to the last, you are given a front row seat to the terrible injustices that black Americans faced during the Detroit riots. Nothing is sugar coated. Nothing is hidden. Seeing this film is like going to one of those extreme haunted houses, except there’s no safe word and everything you are witnessing is real.
And at the center of it all is 24 year old Will Poulter, who I predict will receive a very deserved Best Supporting Actor nomination. Every moment he’s on screen, you are convinced that he is the Devil incarnate. Simply put, he delivers one of the most terrifying performances in film since Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.
The rest of the cast all do a very good job with their respective roles and they all perform wonderfully off of each other. The film’s use of sound design and minimalistic score are essential in creating the film’s unsettling atmosphere. It feels like I have watched something I shouldn’t have seen.
But in spite of how disturbing it was, the simple fact is it struck a chord with me that no other film this year has managed to do. And given our current political climate, it feels more relevant now than ever.
**** out of ****