Monthly Archives: August 2017

Movie Review: Detroit

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Bottom Line: A disturbing look at a disturbing period of history. Could have done without the last half hour of the movie.

“Detroit” follows the events of the 1967 Detroit Riots with a focus on the Algiers Hotel incident. And by “incident” I mean the abuse and murder of Black people by police officers. You know how this ends. I came out of the movie angry. Not because of the injustice of the events in the movie, though they are infuriating, but because I can see no progress from 1967 to 2017. What happened at the Algiers Hotel can happen today and does happen today with worrying frequency. And when a movement springs up to try to combat those injustices, they’re equated with Nazis. Welcome to America 2017.

The events surrounding the Algiers Hotel incident are confusing and the movie does a really good job of portraying that while also keeping a very close hold on the truth of what happened that night. You will leave the movie with questions and that’s a good thing. My biggest question of all was who is this Melvin Dismukes (John Boyega) character? He was a security guard hired to guard a nearby store and somehow got tangled up with everything that happened at the Algiers. The police just seem to accept his presence there, which is weird. My best guess is he was a police wannabe, the security guard industry being filled with them. Boyega portrays him as a decent fellow, but there’s just a wrongness of him being there and abetting some really bad police/national guardsmen. I wonder if there is more to know or if that’s all we really do know about him.

The last half hour of the movie is a puzzle to me. First, it’s pretty boring. The main story has been resolved and it just follows Larry Reed (Algee Smith) who quit The Dramatics because of the events of that night. Second, it takes away a lot of the impact of the movie. It’s as if they didn’t want to leave the audience feeling like crap so they tagged on this feel-goodish ending as if to give a bit of a feeling of hope. It would have been much more powerful if they ended the movie with the not guilty verdicts being read and the murderers walking free as the entire police force cheers them on.

“Detroit” is a compelling movie and should be watched by all. It is often not easy to watch, but it should be known and said out loud frequently that this stuff happens even to this day and we should not stand for it and silence is complicity.

Movie Review: Dunkirk

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

Bottom Line: An enjoyable war story but not worthy of the hype.  Beautifully shot.  Strangely edited.

The evacuation of Dunkirk was an undertaking of immense proportions the likes of which may never be seen again.  Over 300,000 people were evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk over the course of about a week.  Over 800 ships, mostly civilian, helped in the evacuation.  Over 200 of those ships were sunk.  300 airplanes went down, equal amounts German and British.  This movie only captures rare glimpses of the depth and breadth of this undertaking.

I will admit that “Dunkirk” is absolutely beautiful from start to finish.  The cinematography is out of this world.  Every scene, every camera angle is chosen with exquisite care.  And I didn’t even see it in the glorious 70mm format, which is probably absolutely breathtaking.  But that’s Christoper Nolan for you.

And speaking of Christopher Nolan, boy has he Christopher Nolaned the crap out of this film.  It is broken up into three parts: land, sea, and air.  The land part takes place over a week.  The sea part takes place the last day of that week.  The air part takes place the last hour of that day.  He takes them and puts them into a blender so that the timeline is all mixed up.  There are air parts before land parts and sea parts before air parts and land parts before sea parts.  You get introduced to characters from the future before you see them for the first time in the past.  It is quite the jumble.  I assume this was in order to project a sense of chaos into the war environment that wouldn’t necessarily translate well to a film with no epic battle scenes and death coming from a surprise torpedo to the side instead of human to human contact.  Otherwise, you’d be stuck with a bunch of people sitting on a beach for a week occasionally getting strafed by planes or a ship going down as it races home with a full compliment of soldiers.  I get that, but I think the real reason is it covers for the fact that the enormity of this event is kind of given short shrift.  There is some semblance of enormity seeing all the soldiers lined up on the beach waiting to be rescued, but the air portion follows only 3 planes and the sea portion doesn’t come close to the epic level of ships used to rescue 300,000 soldiers.

“Dunkirk” is a story that needed to be told and Christopher Nolan does a good job of telling it.  He should be commended for making a beautiful movie.  But a beautiful movie does not a great movie make.  It’s good.  it’s worth seeing.  Maybe even a few times for those that appreciate the movie making art.  It’s just not the “ooh, you HAVE to see this” level that it seems to be getting portrayed as.