Hammerle on… ‘Detroit,’ ‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power’

Keywords Opinion
  • Print
Listen to this story

Subscriber Benefit

As a subscriber you can listen to articles at work, in the car, or while you work out. Subscribe Now
This audio file is brought to you by
Loading audio file, please wait.
  • 0.25
  • 0.50
  • 0.75
  • 1.00
  • 1.25
  • 1.50
  • 1.75
  • 2.00

bob hammerle movie reviews“Detroit”

Just as she proved with “The Hurt Locker” (2008) and “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012), Kathryn Bigelow is a gifted director who shines her camera into the soul of America. With the spectacular “Detroit,” she takes the audience back to the summer of 1967 when the city of Detroit was on the edge of collapsing in an explosion of racial unrest.

As most of us learned years ago, racial discrimination in our country has never been adequately addressed since the end of the Civil War. Slavery may have ended, but its legacy has always found traction. Think of the Ku Klux Klan, segregation, voter suppression and a long-time ban on interracial marriage, and you have some idea of what black citizens have had to endure in the land of the free and home of the brave.

hammerle-rating-detroit.gifDuring the middle part of the last century, millions of African-Americans moved north in pursuit of an improved quality of life and better job opportunities. Yet segregation was reinvented when Caucasians moved to the suburbs as the inner city became largely a black culture that was left to simmer and rot. Teaching the fifth grade at a public school from 1969-70, where all of the students were black, I had a bit of personal experience in this area.

Many cities in our country exploded in urban chaos, and Bigelow gives us a stunning account of the violence that erupted in Detroit. As looting and vandalism increased, the Detroit police force only poured gasoline on the fire. No one in a position of authority seemed to understand what was happening on the streets, and the rioters were consumed with hatred and anger after years of being treated as if they just stepped off the plantation.

What you see unfold in this mesmerizing film is a recreation of what actually happened at the Algiers Motel in downtown Detroit. Forced to leave a cancelled concert, Larry “Cleveland” Reed (Algee Smith) and his friend/adviser Jimmy (Ephraim Sykes) get separated from the other members of the singing group Dramatics and find a room at the Algiers to escape the street violence. Police descend in armed force on the motel after they mistakenly believe a sniper was hiding inside. Ugliness erupts in a most brutal fashion.

With the exception of a black security guard (John Boyega in an unforgettable role), this is an all-white police force. It is led by officers Krauss (Will Poulter) and Demens (Jack Reynor), two racist officers without an ounce of compassion. After having shot one of the occupants in the back and killed him, they pin five black men against a wall along with two terrified white women for a lengthy period of time. In the process, they beat and brutalize the entire group, and you know that not everyone is going to survive.

Smith is terrific in his role as an aspiring singer whose life is forever turned upside down as a result of this experience. Sykes is equally captivating, and you are left watching his experience with the suppressed hope that he somehow finds a way to escape.

I also want to note the performances of Anthony Mackie, in the role of one of the terrorized black men held at the Algiers, and John Krasinski as a defense attorney who later represented one of the officers at trial. Krasinski’s attorney brings dignity to a profession that I love as he argues to an all-white jury for expected results.

However, it is one of the ultimate ironies of this film that Poulter stands out as an officer who will easily kill if he doesn’t get cooperation. Seldom will you ever be so fixated on an actor that you loathe.

This is not a film that you will hunt down because you’re seeking to find some entertainment in the theater. Bigelow’s movie serves as a dramatic history lesson, and ignorance of our past makes its repetition inevitable.

“An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”

Here is the problem with Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” a follow-up to his 2006 Oscar-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Except for intellectual shut-ins, nearly every person recognizes the colossal consequences of poisoning our atmosphere with greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, this film gradually loses its meaning when you have to repeatedly listen to Gore’s monotone speeches.

hammerle-rating-inconvenient2.gifIt’s not that the film lacks significant moments. There are some devastatingly wonderful scenes of ice melting in Greenland where large rivers are formed. Furthermore, the most meaningful moment in the film occurs at its conclusion when you watch Gore and others work to get the Paris Climate Pact signed by all countries. It leaves you in bitter agony as you watch Donald Trump withdraw our country from this pact for reasons that defy any meaningful explanation.

The film also hits a high note as it centers on the increasing use of solar power and wind energy to reduce our addiction to fossil fuels. Various cities in our country as well as countries such as Chile are making gigantic progress in this area. Sadly, you can’t help but cringe in disgust as you watch a state like Florida, “The Sunshine State,” all but ban their use.

What robs this film of its strength is its constant focus on Gore himself. While you have to admire his commitment to help our country adopt a policy of clean energy, the film becomes a bit annoying as it centers on his self-glorification.

But let’s not ignore the central point of this film. Wealthy corporations and individuals like the Koch brothers are doing all they can to prevent our country from tackling global warming on a meaningful level. If our president and his EPA Director Scott Pruitt want to cater to the coal industry, I suggest that they take a good look at India and Beijing, where smokestacks have blotted out the sky for weeks at a time. Is that really what we want to happen in our country?•


Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis at Pence Hensel LLC as of counsel. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets on
{{ count_down }}