Snapshots - #36: Detroit, The Foreigner, The People Vs. Fritz Bauer



Detroit (♦♦♦♦): In July, 1967, the city of Detroit became the epicenter of racial riots by a black population that had become increasingly marginalized while being policed by an abusive, white police force. The protests spiraled into looting and violence, and eventually the National Guard stepped in.

On the periphery of the Algiers Motel, a group of National Guardsmen reported sniper fire believed to be coming from the Algiers Motel. Rooms were searched but no weapons were found. Meanwhile, a few policemen engaged in what they called a "death game": the torture of a group of black men and two white women who were guests at the place.

I'll never understand why social movements of whatever ideology start with rightful civil disobedience and become headless mobs capable of looting and criminal activity. 1967's Chicago protests, though born from injustice, were no different. What was significant was the violation of those men and women's civil rights by a police force that was entrusted with safeguarding those rights. Two young men were killed, and wrongdoing was never directly admitted.

Directed and partly produced by Kathryn Bigelow, director of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Detroit is a composite of archive footage and eyewitness accounts. Despite the elasticity of distant memories, which may contain distortions and biases, Detroit still manages to portray convincingly a solid case of racially-motivated police brutality and the social cauldron in which it happened, as well as being a serious film that, more than entertain, it dares its audience to think and come up with its own conclusion.

While I don't believe that Detroit is in the same artistic category as Bigelow's other two notable productions, it can be said confidently that it was one of the most accomplished films in the 2017 cinematic calendar.

The Foreigner (♦♦♦♦): Sixty-year-old 'Chinaman' Mihn Quan loses his teenage daughter Fan in a terrorist attack in the middle of London. A rogue arm tied to Northern Ireland's militant past attributes the deed. Authorities won't give him information about the perpetrators. They too are searching for clues, but an Irish minister formerly tied to the IRA, whom Quan watches being interviewed on television, may know something. Quan is no ordinary man, and this will be advantageous against a merciless enemy.

The Foreigner, starring Pierce Brosnan, and Jackie Chan whom also partly produced it, is a taut-as-violin's-strings thriller, but not the ordinary kind. The Foreigner is a surprisingly timely political thriller with family drama, rage, regret, and loss fueling vendettas.

While Jackie Chan doesn't look very convincing as a grief-stricken father, he does here what he does best: kick butts and take names, though even in doing so he has departed from some of his most iconic roles because this 'Chinaman' has a full-fleshed persona with an enigmatic past to match. The result is Brosnan's and Chan's best performances in years, and an edge-of-your-seat thriller that will satisfy and vastly entertain.

The People Vs. Fritz Bauer (♦♦♦♦): Germany, 1957. The office of the Attorney-General Fritz Bauer has been investigating for some time, without progress, the whereabouts of former high-command Nazi officers. It seems that political forces outside his control are working against him. Germany's intelligence services, the Interpol, and even the cabinet of Chancellor Adenauer are staffed with former Nazis, thus it is only natural that there is little interest in confronting and bringing to justice the people responsible for the genocide of millions of Jews in the Holocaust.

Bauer, a Jew himself, is tormented by the institutional cover-up. Then he receives a letter with an Argentinean address in which a source claims to have identified a man he believes is Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the mass deportation of millions of Jews to their deaths in concentration camps.

It would be a great coup for Bauer if he can try Eichmann in a German court, for his country would start confronting its horrid past, but the moment certain people start sniffing out that he is on to a certain someone, they begin throwing him red herrings hoping to fool him. Knowing that the Interpol won't help, or anyone else in Germany for that matter, he approaches the fledgling Israeli secret services. They dismiss him, and it won't be for another three years that Israel's PM gives the order to capture Eichmann alive and bring him to Jerusalem to face justice.

I partly knew the story from the Israeli perspective thanks to the nonfiction book Hunting Eichmann by Neal Bascomb, which I read four years ago. This movie is an excellent companion to the book as it is told from Fritz Bauer's POV.

The initial correspondence that revealed Eichmann's whereabouts, the footwork in Buenos Aires to pinpoint his location and daily routine, as well as the actual kidnapping, were covered so fast in the film that Eichmann feels like an afterthought rather than Bauer's reason for treason, but the film does a remarkable job of recreating the atmosphere of suspicion and distrust in Germany's justice system, as well as the impotence Bauer must have felt to arrive at such a transcendental decision. Amidst the investigation there is in the film a tangible sense of danger as Fritz Bauer received constant death threats, including anti-Semitic messages.

The People Vs. Fritz Bauer is likely a loose reenactment of the events, but it feels like a documentary of intrigue, with plenty of drama and none of the dryness. Burghart Klau╬▓ner is superb in the leading role.

Comments

  1. You've had some very interesting and provocative viewing experiences recently!

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  2. Detroit is a potent movie for sure. The Fritz Bauer movie looks intriguing. I have seen films & docs about the Israelis capturing Eichmann & the trial as well but I didn't know of Bauer's role. Did he tell the Israelis of Eichmann's whereabouts? I will have to check it out ... if I can find the movie here in Canada. thx for the reviews.

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    1. He did, but they had a file on Eichmann with reported sightings all over the globe, thus they asked for definitive proof before acting on Bauer's tip.

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  3. It looks like you've watched some really interesting movies lately. I'm starting to really miss movies. I haven't had time to watch any since I started my reading challenge.

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    1. I don't blame you because you read a lot. I, on the other hand, am not reading that much or as "fast" as I used to, and I use the term fast loosely.

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  4. Detroit is next in my Netflix queue! Followed soon after by The Foreigner. I had not heard of The People vs Fritz Bauer but recently we watched Judgement at Nuremberg (Academy Award, 1962 for Best Actor) so this sounds like a good companion piece for me. I am getting pretty excited for the Academy Awards on Sunday. Should be an especially good one this year.

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    1. Let me know if you like them. I didn't know about Judgement of Nuremberg; I'll try to find it. Indeed it sounds like a good companion piece for The People...

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  5. Soom food for thought here. I've not seen any of these so I'll make a note. Definitely intrigued by Detroit - great write up.
    Lynn :D

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    1. Thanks, Lynn. I recommend all three wholeheartedly.

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