Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2017: Algee Smith, John Boyega and Will Poulter in Detroit

Algee Smith, John Boyega and Will Poulter did not receive an Oscar nominations for portraying Larry Reed, Melvin Dismukes, and Trooper Philip Krauss respectively in Detroit.

Detroit follows a few different individuals once it hones in on one night during the Detroit riots of 1967. The first of the three most notable of these individuals is Larry Reed an inspiring Motown singer who we are first introduced to as his group is about to debut on stage. Smith plays Larry without a care in mind towards the riots but rather a directness towards the fulfillment of the dream. This is not a selfish thought as portrayed by Smith but rather the most fervent optimism about living his dream. This is infused into the entirety of his work as he so earnestly speaks of going on stage offering one of the most potentially naive yet pure attitudes within the gritty film. Smith doesn't make this corny though making this desire pure in the right way particularly in his rather remarkable singing that captures the Motown style, but with this real heart that so effectively exudes the optimism within the act. When the riots cancel the show the disappointment that Smith shows is genuine to this guy caught up in his dream to the point he does ignore what's around him. When he is with his other band mates trying to avoid the riots, Smith's performance keeps this devotion towards this thought as a man with a sight on his goal, and his main frustration being the denial of that. What's important though is that Smith finds that optimism in the goal that doesn't make Larry seem indifferent but just almost on a different wavelength even while fires rage around him.

This is rather different from the introduction to John Boyega's Melvin Dismukes who works as a security guard for a store in the riot zone. Boyega portrays his part with a world weariness but not a true cynicism. When we first meet him he portrays the focus of a man just doing his job in the way he knows how. When he goes about helping a rioter from the brutal treatment of a policeman. Melvin stands between two aggressors. Boyega depicts this exact calm in Mevlin as he attempts to cool the situation between the cop and the young man delivers every line with this exact patience. He speaks just trying assuage any problems not in a subservient way but rather as someone who desires peace and order above else. Boyega in this moment shows this as man who probably has been doing this awhile particularly when he has a word with the young rioter just a second later who calls him an "Uncle Tom". Boyega's great as he still keeps that same calm that defines his portrayal, but after the man leaves has the perfect near eye roll reaction that shows that Melvin's probably been called something similair many times while working his job as a security guard. Boyega lays the right stake as Melvin as one of the few people who intends to reduce rather than exacerbate any given situation during the riots.

The last player of this trio is played by Will Poulter as one of Detroit's officers Philip Krauss. We initially meet Krauss on patrol during the day when there is a level of calm for the moment, yet he takes it upon himself to mortally wound a man who has taken groceries from a store. Poulter in this scene establishes Krauss as the film's most despicable character but not in the way one might expect. He does not portray Krauss as the drooling racist, in fact his fellow officers are far more open in that regard. Poulter doesn't play it as Krauss is hiding this either, instead he plays it in a way that is possibly far more disturbing. Poulter makes Krauss's racism implicit within his portrayal of the man's attitude towards the riots. When he speaks that the rioting shouldn't be allowed to go on like this, that "they" deserves a lesson, or even when he shoots the man there is no sadism displayed. He instead delivers these lines as though they are of this firm philosophy in the man, a man who believes himself to be so above the people he is policing that it isn't something he struggles with. His racism is something that Poulter depicts as Krauss is so comfortable with it doesn't require any of the typical outrage, as he just so firmly believes in his superiority to the point that he feels he is justified in any actions he takes in order to maintain the "peace". When a detective says he's going to be charged for the man he shot, Poulter shows only mild frustration, and only a bit of confusion fitting to a man who is absolutely convinced of his unnerving belief. Poulter shows that he's not a man who need to speak with unneeded zealousness because he knows he's in the "right".

The three sadly all converge on the Algiers hotel. Smith's Larry gets there first with his friend Fred (Jacob Latimore) who are just trying to wait out the riots within the hotel. Smith is good in these scenes establishing the style of Larry just directly outside of the sphere of performance. In one part just his easy friendship between the two one based on encouragement for that dream though, where Smith just depicts a mild somberness due to that denial caused earlier in the night. The two have just enough a warmth between the two suggesting their friendship as when Fred encourages him to keep working for his singing career Larry attempts to help Fred find a woman within the vicinity of the hotel. Smith's also very good in these scenes in portraying Larry as guy who is properly smooth, he has a definite charm, but perhaps not quite smooth as he thinks he is. This happens when arrives in the annex whereas the other men there are non too impressed by his personal style, and Smith reactions are very effective here in portraying kind of losing that overt confidence he projected so well when he initially approached the women who led him and Fred to the annex. A practical joke, involving a starter pistol, soon gets out of hand when the noise of the fake gunshots cause the law enforcement outside to believe there is a sniper in the building.

The law enforcement group eventually includes Boyega's Melvin, but is more or less lead by Poulter's Krauss who is the first to enter the building. His first act in there is to once again shoot a fleeing man which Poulter portrays without hesitation. Instead he depicts again this mindset of an extremist's justification as he is not at all phased by this as he quickly plants a knife to make the escapee seem as though the shot into the back was somehow warranted. Poulter brings this unsettling assurance in the moment though as though this is merely Krauss going about his business as he firmly believes is fit, which if he suspects you for a moment you're target practice for him. Krauss takes over as he has all the denizens lined up on a wall for interrogation. Poulter is terrifying here in the intensity he brings in this scene. What is particularly unnerving is how Poulter plays the scene with such an effortless command, as though this brutality is what Krauss has been waiting for. He specifically doesn't seem at all messy and in a way is scarier in the more subdued hatred that he expresses because of how refined it is within the man. There is a detached precision in Poulter's performance who goes from one verbal or physical attack to another with such ease without a moments hesitation, as though this is his "duty" of his to perform. Poulter conveys absolute control of  the situation that makes it all the more horrifying for the complete lack of empathy in any facet of his work.

This leaves Smith's Larry at sometimes the literal blunt end of a gun, and his performance adds to the visceral quality of the scene. Smith portrays Larry as barely able stand amidst all the shouting and violence as he depicts a man wholly gripped in fear. Although he is part of the group being attacked he does stand out within this once Poulter's Krauss demands that the group starts praying for their lives. Smith is absolutely haunting in his depiction of this by bringing the same passion into his performance here than on stage, but now as this terrified cry for help when doing so rather than with the optimistic cheer of before. Boyega's Melvin appears as though potentially one of the few sources of help as he also arrives on the scene. Boyega plays this quite well because he does not play Melvin as this hero at the annex. Boyega instead properly shows, largely with very few speaking lines, depicts the right sense that Melvin is trying to figure out what is going on himself. Unlike Poulter, he does bring an underlying sense of empathy as he watches the brutality, but within that conveys the sense of confusion. Boyega properly plays it as Melvin has no idea whether or not the members of the annex are guilty or not, since there was no way for him to know. When he takes one of the men away into another room in the annex Boyega bluntly delivers the questions on where the gun is, offering still a sense of understanding in this interactions, but still with the hesitation of a guy who doesn't know exactly what's going on.

Krauss's reign of terror continues even as he goes about interrogating everyone, multiple ways including fake "shooting" them in order to find the gun that doesn't exist. Poulter's work does overpower these scenes in how effectively he realizes the sheer extent of the man's vicious behavior without a hint of shame. Again though Poulter keeps to the idea of the man's conviction towards his deranged worldview that makes him act without impunity, and this hollowness as the violence comes so easily to him. Poulter's performance though goes further in that he's not one note, but the variations that appear in Krauss Poulter uses them only to make the man all the more disquieting. This includes the scene where he interrogates the two women in the hotel. At first doesn't hold back but when it appears he's gotten any information from them, Poulter shows Krauss's effort to offer a bit of comfort through this little smile he gives that is downright bone chilling by how Poulter realizes as this brief almost alien false face for the man while attempting to do something completely against his nature. The other moment that shows any other side is when one of his fellow officers shoots one of the hotel guests after failing to understand Krauss's fake shooting interrogation tactic. Poulter doesn't humanize Krauss in this rather he just merely shows that he is human in his reaction. A reaction of genuine fear and concern. A concern not at all for the dead man, but rather Poulter plays it as this realization that things might have finally gotten out of hand for him and the other officers.

The incident ends with Smith portraying Larry as petrified in fear and both physically and emotionally exhausted by the end. His performance completely brings about the wear of the man as this man who is an absolute wreck as he stumbles away looking for any help. Boyega, while I do think Melvin is somewhat under served as a character throughout the film, effectively conveys the growing unease in the realization that something has gone very wrong here. Poulter though shows that Krauss with still his personal determination to somehow get himself off of the night as he lets most of the men go except demands that they will lie about what happened. Poulter delivers this threat in a truly alarming way by again being so direct and blunt in this. In his eyes there is only this certainty that he will have no hesitation to kill if he does not hear as he wants to hear with his questions. When Larry's friend Fred fails to lie, Poulter portrays the reaction to this with just a slight shrug as one more atrocity that Krauss can live with. This leads to the final act of the film, which is the weakest portion of the film. Boyega again feels somewhat short shrift by the narrative as Mevlin is arrested and charged along with the racist officers. This isn't really explored all that much beyond a few brief scenes including one where Melvin is interrogated by detectives, then a later scene where he vomits upon realizing the men will get off. This seems like a complicated idea that just isn't given the time to develop. That leaves Boyega with only a few brief scenes. They are are well portrayed as in the interrogation where Boyega begins with this earnest explanation and slowly drifts this unease into his face as the men's questions become more intense. The same is true for his later scene where he conveys that inward disgust at the result incident. Boyega gives a terrific performance and really makes the most he can out of the part, a part that seemed to have more potential though then we see within this film. Poulter only has a few moments after the incident ends. He uses them well though to show a man who has not all been changed by the events still showing that same confident streak even when taken into questioning where he portrays this just general confusion as though he couldn't possibly know why he's being arrested. His very final moment is one last great one for his performance where he tells Boyega's Melvin that "You're a good guy". Poulter's delivery couldn't be more patronizing as though he's recognized one person from what he sees as the lower class worthy of his minor approval. Poulter delivers a great performance in a truly frightening depiction of unrepentant monster defined by his grotesque philosophy. The film ends with the story of Larry as he tries to move on after his brutal treatment and the death of his friend. Smith is incredibly powerful in portraying the complete loss of any of that optimism or drive in the man as he refuses to follow his singing career. Smith, even in the final scenes, where Larry is now singing with a church choir, his singing, though as potent in terms of technical skill, now is defined by sorrow and pain rather than the joy of his expression. Algee Smith is heartbreaking in showing in his performance the transformation of the sanguine young man reduced to a living victim of the event who continues on in this solitude forever scared by his experience.
(Smith & Boyega)
(Poulter)

47 comments:

Luke Higham said...

Great performances all. Poulter was Outstanding.

Psifonian said...

The thing I liked most about Poulter's performance is that he was basically a societal ill incarnate. There's not much of a character to Krauss, but I don't think that's a bad thing. He represents the moral malaise that afflicted--and still afflicts--law enforcement, and the fact that such viciousness and hate ferments behind that boyish visage is all the more horrific. One thing I noticed is that at no point does Krauss use an overt racial epithet, while his partner does; Krauss's racism is couched in "they" and "them," which is somehow even more disturbing. Poulter played the hell out of that son of a bitch, and he really ought to have been nominated.

Algee was also terrific and would've stolen the movie had it not been for Poulter. Boyega was also quite good.

You know who wasn't good, though? Fucking John Krasinski.

Mitchell Murray said...

Another movie I should really check out. Poulters never been on my radar but I guess he just needed the right part.

Louis Morgan said...

Psifonian:

I'd say Krasinski was probably the most distracting performance of 2017.

Calvin Law said...

Fucking amazing performance by Poulter. Smith, Boyega, and Latimore were all great too - though I do agree more time spent on the third act with him could have bumped him up even more.

Kaminski was okay but the choice of using the shaky cam for his first appearance did Jim Halpert no favours.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Have you rewatched The Post since your initial viewing. If so, is Streep a 4.5 or 5.

Calvin Law said...

Also, just saw A Taxi Driver Louis and while I didn't love the film as much as you (liked it a lot though), Song was fantastic.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: Who's your choice for the final slot, I'm thinking of going with either Hawke or Miller.

Calvin Law said...

Luke: I'd love for Hawke to get in, but I'll watch Miller before making that choice.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: thoughts and rating for Ryu Jun-yeol in A Taxi Driver.

Calvin Law said...

And Yoo Hae-jin.

Matt Mustin said...

Luke: I'm blanking on this completely, who's Miller?

Calvin Law said...

Levi Miller, Better Watch Out.

Luke Higham said...

Matt: Levi Miller in Better Watch Out. Louis saw the film before the Oscar reviews.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your 70's and 80's Nebraska casts.

Michael McCarthy said...

I'm glad Smith got upgraded, and totally agree that Krasinski was terrible (and I do like him).

As for Boyega, I actually think the lack of emphasis on his character was part of what made his performance so powerful for me oddly enough. His reactions during the questioning scene were a harrowing portrayal of a man who's about to be blamed for doing his very best to stay out of the whole thing. That scene has honestly stayed with me better than almost any other from this past year.

Luke Higham said...

Hope Lynch comes tonight. I'm incredibly anxious for Hamill right now.

Bryan L said...

Louis: Any changes in ratings for the cast?

John Smith said...

Louis, what are your top 10 movie endings and openings of the 2010s so far?

John Smith said...

Luke: I'm anxious as well. But for some reason I don't think Hamill will get a five. Maybe because I think he is strong 4.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

Ryu - 4(I think he's pretty good in that he creates this perspective of his character initially in bringing just a bit of a smug attitude as he sort of belittles Song's taxi driver at first. He lets down on this pretense in each scene and slowly reveals himself to be a far more humble sort as they continue and gradually endears himself particularly in this "rock band" moment. He quietly creates an investment not only in the young man, but also the movement in a way without ever forcing through this naturalistic transition in how you see him.)

Yoo - 3.5(He just brings a nice bit of warmth in his performance in each of his scenes by making his good natured guy just seem believable. He's convincing in just depicting the guy would prefer things to be better for everyone making his later emotional distress particularly harrowing as the story continues to get darker.)

Anonymous:

70's:

Woody: James Cagney
David: Bob Newhart
Ross: Jack Klugman
Kate: Lillian Gish
Ed: Pat O'Brien

80's:

Woody: Henry Fonda
David: Peter Fonda
Ross: Charles Grodin
Kate: Bette Davis
Ed: Burt Lancaster

Luke:

Yes, and I found out watching it a second time I guess I wasn't tired because I was tired it was from watching the film. As the same thing happened to me watching it again. Definitely a 4.5.

Bryan:

No I don't believe so.

Mitchell Murray said...

So if I'm not mistaken, me, Louis and Giuseppe all have the same score for best actress 2017. I've said it before and I'll say it again.. phenomenal year for the category.

Louis Morgan said...

John Smith:

Openings:

1. Night heist - Drive
2. Welcome to the house of Woodcock - Phantom Thread
3. Martyrdom - Silence
4. Breakup - The Social Network
5. Here they come again - Mad Max: Fury Road
6. Raid - Sicario
7. Disaster - Gravity
8. Loss - Arrival
9. Escape to the Beach - Dunkirk
10. "A Miracle" - Blade Runner 2049

Endings:

1. "Whiplash" - Whiplash
2. Breakdown - I Saw the Devil
3. "La Mer" - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
4. Showdown - Hell or High Water
5. What if? - La La Land
6. "That was a nice touch" - The Hateful Eight
7. One more climb - Creed
8. "Kiss me" - Phantom Thread
9. The Gosling stare - Blade Runner 2049/Drive
10. Walk off into the distance - A Most Wanted Man

Calvin Law said...

Gotta think about openings but for endings,

1. 'Kiss Me' - Phantom Thread
2. Lincoln Letter - The Hateful Eight
3. Farewell - Mad Max: Fury Road
4. Whiplash - Whiplash
5. Reunion - Brooklyn
6. Cremation - Silence
7. 'TS-motherfucking-A' - Get Out
8. Mattie's reflection - True Grit
9. Happy Ending - Carol
10. Deciding along the way - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the voices of Orson Welles, Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton, Clancy Brown and Ron Perlman.

John Smith said...

I really need to see Phantom Thread, Detroit, Three Billboards and many more.

Been working a lot and haven't had many opportunities to sit down and watch a movie.

John Smith said...

I'm so happy Poulter is taking these kinds of roles.

John Smith said...

Looking forward to seeing Bodega in this film as well.

Mitchell Murray said...

I might as well throw some openings/endings in as well, in no particular order I should add.

Openings:

Action sequences - Skyfall, Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant
Heart break - Arrival
Breakdown - Two Days, One Night (An uncommon one, I know, but it caught me completely off guard the first time)

Endings:
Duncan's revenge - Macbeth (Fassbender)
The final glance - La La Land
Reunited - Brooklyn (Truly an example of sentimental story telling done right)



John Smith said...

Openings:

-Gangs Of Wasseypur (Part 1)
-Silence
-Oslo, August 31st
-Shame
-Play
-Nightcrawler
-Arrival
-The Master

Endings:

-Tinker Tailor Soilder Spy
-The Master
-The Wolf Of Wall Street
-The Here After
-Oslo, August 31st
-La La Land
-Moonlight
-Play

John Smith said...

Forgot to add 'Whiplash' to the best endings list.

Emi Grant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charles H said...

Excellent performance by Poulter, he's got a promising career ahead.

My favorites openings of the 2010's.
1. Drive
2. Silence
3. Phantom Thread
4. Blade Runner 2049
5. Sicario
6. Gravity
7. Dunkirk
8. I Saw The Devil
9. Fury Road
Number 10 i'm unsure.

Charles H said...

Endings:
1. I Saw The Devil(All time great ending for me)
2. Silence
3. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
4. Drive
5. The Hateful Eight
6. Phantom Thread
7. Blade Runner 2049
8. Brooklyn
9. Whiplash
10. Creed

John Smith said...

Damn Can't belive I left out 'I Saw Thr Devil'

Robert MacFarlane said...

I have to admit the thin, mostly symbolic way Krauss was written blunted Poulter's impact for me, I can't deny how skin-crawling he was. It's the most my lip has curled watching a character since Peter Sarsgaard in the second half of Boys Don't Cry. He's not on my ballot, but I see why you all were so impressed.

Robert MacFarlane said...

As for my favorite endings:

1. Your Name.
2. A Most Wanted Man
3. Toy Story 3
4. 12 Years a Slave
5. Creed
6. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
7. La La Land
8. It Follows
9. Silence
10. Brooklyn

Robert MacFarlane said...

Honorable mention to Blade Runner 2049, Before Midnight, and Mad Max: Fury Road. As for openings, in not order:

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
It Follows
Arrival
The Social Network
Two Days, One Night
Inception
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Seven Psychopaths
Mad Max: Fury Road
Drive

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Favorite Openings-

1. Drive
2. I Saw the Devil
3. Mad Max Fury Road
4. Silence
5. Gravity
6. The Social Network
7. Three Billboards
8. Hell or High Water
9. The Imitation Game (mostly for Cumberbatch's brilliant narration)
10. Dunkirk

Favorite Endings:
1. Your Name
2. Silence
3. I Saw the Devil
4. La La Land
5. Hell or High Water
6. Whiplash
7. A Silent Voice
8. Drive
9. Logan
10.Toy Story 3

John Smith said...

Just rewatched La Confidential and Guy Pearce gives what is propably the greatest reaction ever put on film.

Louis, what would be your top 10 reaction shots? (You can include television performances if you want).

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

I'm not one to recommend music easily, but I think all you guys would like this song:
https://youtu.be/qvJA7DjogVw

Mitchell Murray said...

(John Smith) Off the top of my head..

Its more a series of reactions, but Casey Affleck is pretty amazing in the assassination scene of the movie with the self explanatory title.

Viggo Mortensen's final reaction of "A History of Violence" is also quite haunting.

And I absolutely adore Emma Stone's final moment in "Birdman", and her final moment in "La La Land" for that matter.

John Smith said...

I love Jonathan Banks eye roll in the opening scene of the Breaking Bad episode 'Bullet Points'. Brilliant.

John Smith said...

And Louis (Everyone else can feel free to chip in with their opinion as well) , this question is not related to acting performances or any movie scenes so feel free not to answer it. But what are your thoughts on streaming services? A lot of my friends are worried that people won't go to the cinema... But in all honesty I believe the theater chains deserve.

One month's netflix In Sweden is cheaper then a movie ticket. And I know that the cinema experience can be great, but the prices are to high, fuck multiplex I guess. Does anyone

Luke Higham said...

John: Tickets are cheap on a Tuesday in my hometown. I pay regularly if it's a film I'm dying to see (Star Wars) and want to give my opinion on.

Louis Morgan said...

John Smith:

"That's Mozart" - F. Murray Abraham - Amadeus
James Stewart - "They'll Vote with Potter Otherwise" moment - It's a Wonderful Life
After Nicky's shot - Robert De Niro & Christopher Walken - The Deer Hunter
"I hated Rebecca" - Joan Fontaine - Rebecca
"Rollo Tomasi" - Guy Pearce - L.A. Confidential
"You!" - Alec Guinness - Bridge on the River Kwai
Jane's Death - Bryan Cranton - Breaking Bad
"FUDGE" - Darren McGavin - A Christmas Story
The Assassination - Casey Affleck, Brad Pitt & Sam Rockwell - The Assassination of Jesse James
The Vote - Dana Andrews - The Ox-Bow Incident

I have nothing against streaming services, as much as I love a great cinematic experience, often times theaters fail to provide that therefore competition against that is going to be natural.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Orson Welles - (One of the all time great voices with his commanding baritone though with this certain lightness that made it all the more intriguing and distinct. One of the all time perfect radio voices to be sure.)

Laurence Olivier - (Although is remarked more for his changes of his voices than his actual voice, his actual voice is also quite dynamic through his elegant yet not stuffy English accent.)

Charles Laughton - (Another unique voice as Laughton certainly has something interesting in there as there was something effortlessly commanding about it even though it was such a quiet and airing voice he had.)

Clancy Brown - (I can just instantly thin of him saying "DUFRENSE" his voice is just one of the all time great voices that seem to have such force within only the voice.)

Ron Perlman - (The powerful and refined voice of a true leading man.)