Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
HOME, 29 August 2017
You are plunged into a violent world where change, through whatever means, has got to come.
In Kathryn Bigelow’s film, a case study of the Detroit riots and in particular three murders that took place at the Algiers Motel, who are the catalysts for change? Well, not the politicians, whether black or white, for they are helpless in the face of a mob’s inchoate rage. Most of the blacks (as depicted here) are well-adjusted victims accepting of the status quo (else they are summarily killed), so not from that quarter either. As for the great American public, as instanced by an all-white jury that clears three white cops of murder, No, they are no help either. And you can’t really call these defendants rogue cops, since they were probably abiding by what was then a social norm. Here is the thing: her (Bigelow ‘s)heroes are cops, only they are homicide cops who apply the law, who’re just doing their job. Who are cruel and merciless in their pursuit of justice, or plain old human weakness.
This is the best scene, by far: murders have been committed and Dismukes (John Boyega), a black security guard and a witness, is called in for questioning. He repeats what he has been told to say by the white cops who had carried out the killing. He expects, if not an easy ride, at least for them to accept his story. After all, it lets the white cops off the hook. But no: they want the truth, won’t settle for less. At the end of the interview, an intimidating encounter, we see his face in close-up: fear, confusion, something else. The cops who murdered have intimidated him into going along with their cover up, a paradigm for his whole life virtually, now these other crazy white bastards want him to come clean? This is what social change looks like: stress for all concerned.
Detroit flags a bit but is mostly excellent. Mind, one suspects that when it comes to this period of American history, to echo the title of Edward E Baptist’s book about slavery itself, ‘the half has never been told’.