[Review] Movie “Detroit”: How Power Corrupts and the Tragedy of Injustice (Director Kathryn Bigelow)

I wrote this article in Japanese and translated it into English using ChatGPT. I also used ChatGPT to create the English article title. I did my best to correct any translation mistakes, but please let me know if you find any errors. By the way, I did not use ChatGPT when writing the Japanese article. The entire article was written from scratch by me, Saikawa Goto.



Movies and books covered in this article

(Click This Image to Go Directly to the Amazon Prime Video Movie “Detroit”: Image from Amazon.com)

I will write an article about this movie/book

Three takeaways from this article

  1. As an adult, I finally understood that “the Constitution is a constraint on the state by the people.”
  2. The sense of responsibility to fulfill one’s duty may lead to wrongdoing.
  3. “Possession of firearms” may also contribute to “injustice by those in power”.

Considering “Black Lives Matter,” we can’t feel relieved just because an event happened 50 years ago.

Self-introduction article

Please refer to the self-introduction article above to learn about the person writing this article. Be sure to check out the Kindle book linked below as well.

Published Kindle books(Free on Kindle Unlimited)

“The genius Einstein: An easy-to-understand book about interesting science advances that is not too simple based on his life and discoveries: Theory of Relativity, Cosmology and Quantum Theory”

“Why is “lack of imagination” called “communication skills”?: Japanese-specific”negative” communication”

The quotes used in this article are based on notes taken at the movie theater from movies in Japanese and are not direct quotes from the foreign language original movies, even if they exist.

The Very Those in Power Can Become the “True Evil.” How Should We Confront This Reality?

“Detroit” is a movie based on an actual event that occurred in the United States over 50 years ago. However, the reality of “white people oppressing black people” still persists today.

This is not just a thing of the past.

At the end of the movie, there were subtitles displayed with the following message:

The truth about this incident has not been uncovered.
This movie was made based on the records and testimonies of those involved at the time.

In other words, it means that we don’t know if the portrayal in this movie is accurate. Of course that’s to be expected since the truth has not been uncovered.

Regardless of what the halfway progress were, the tragic outcome would not have changed. I believe that what is depicted in this movie is not about whether it actually happened or not, but rather that it “could have happened” and that there is meaning in recognizing that it “could happen”.

When Those in Power Disregard “Justice,” No One Can Stand Up to Them

I used to have a big misunderstanding about the significance of the “Constitution”. I only had a vague understanding that it was something “higher than the law”. While this understanding is not necessarily wrong, it is not a fundamental understanding.

The “Constitution” is a constraint on the state by the people. It’s probably something you learn during your school days, but you might have forgotten or not realized how important it is.

The “Law” constrains the people by the government, but conversely, the “Constitution” constrains the government by the people. In other words, the “Constitution” is something made by the people and protected by the government, and it exists superior to the ‘Law.’ This is called “Constitutionalism”.

When I found out about this fact as an adult, I was surprised. So, the “Constitution” was actually our weapon, I realized.

And, I felt that it had to be that way again after watching the movie.

National power restrains citizens in various ways. For example, the state takes away “violence” from the citizens. In return, the police force fights against violence or punishes criminals with violence such as the death penalty.

According to constitutionalism, “We impose restrictions on state power through the ‘Constitution.’ So we also allow our rights to be restricted.” This is the reasoning.

In this way, we keep the tyranny of “power” under control.

The reason why we must do this is clear. It’s because “power” has too much power. If the power is exercised without regard to the restrictions imposed by the Constitution, the people have no way to resist.

The shock of the suicide of a Japanese finance bureaucrat still lingers today. Since the government decided to pay full compensation, the truth was never uncovered and the trial came to an end. It was an event where a single person was easily killed by the mighty “power”.

In a movie I saw before, the demolition of a municipally rented apartment was decided under the pretext of the Tokyo Olympics, and the eviction of residents was depicted. The exercise of power to crush individuals can happen even in our immediate surroundings.

When faced with such a situation, what can we do?

The Possibility of Bringing Unconsciously One’s Personality Closer to the Role One is Expected to Play

There is a widely-known experiment called the “Stanford prison experiment,” although there are doubts about its authenticity as a psychological experiment due to allegations of fabrication. In the experiment, students were divided into “guards” and “prisoners” and made to act out their roles, resulting in the guards’ personalities becoming increasingly wicked due to the influence of their role.

Regardless of whether the authenticity of the experiment, I believe that it is possible for people to commit wicked acts when they feel obligated to fulfill their roles.

Whenever I watch actual footage of protests or movies based on past revolutions, I can’t help but think about “how the military or police feel.” For instance, when the Black Lives Matter movement spread across the United States, police officers were dispatched to suppress the protests. However, I wonder if there were officers who sympathized with the protesters. Nevertheless, they had to fulfill their duties as police officers. If that’s the case, some may consciously justify their actions by thinking “the protesters are in the wrong” and reduce resistance to performing their duties.

By thinking in this way, it becomes possible to see that “having power can lead to committing wrongdoing”. Everyone has their own idea of what is “just”, but those who have decided to stand on the side of power must follow the “justice” that the powerful side thinks. If the “justice” that the powerful side thinks is different from one’s own belief of “justice”, one will think that they must reluctantly prioritize the “justice” that the powerful side thinks in order to fulfill their duty, and in the process, they may have to take actions that they do not want to take.

As far as the film is concerned, Krauss, a white police officer who appears in this movie, is “too abnormal” and is not an existence that suits the argument I have written so far. However, if we just see Krauss as a “madman,” we will miss the opportunity to apply the lessons of the past.

Anyone can become like Krauss if they have “power.” If we do not live with the awareness of this, we may eventually become the “side that hurts someone by exercising power” ourselves.

Content Introduction

On July 23, 1967, a rare and massive riot broke out in the city of Detroit.

It was triggered by police crackdowns. The Detroit police raided an illegal bar in a low-income area and arrested the owner for not having a liquor license. This angered the black residents of the area who responded by throwing Molotov cocktails and engaging in looting. As a result, the city of Detroit was brought to a state of devastation.

On the third day of the riots, an incident occurred at the Algiers Motel. Among those at the motel were members of a black band group, two white women, and black men who had met the white women at the motel.

One of the black men fired a starting pistol as a joke to startle the police and National Guard who were still on high alert due to the riots. However, the police quickly responded and surrounded the motel. They stormed into the motel with guns and shot and killed one of the black men who tried to flee.

Afterwards, one of the city police officers made everyone in the motel stand against the wall and threatened to kill them if they did not reveal where the gun was. He then proceeded to torture everyone, including the white women.

Across from the motel was Dismukes, a black man who worked in security. He noticed that something was happening at the motel and went inside, where he witnessed the brutality of the Detroit police. However, he understood all too well that if he turned against the white police officers, he would not be able to survive in the city. He tried to figure out a way to stop the madness at the motel with minimal damage, but it was not easy.


In this day and age, we want to believe that such things don’t happen, but unfortunately that’s not the case. The video that sparked the “Black Lives Matter” movement, showing a white police officer choking a black man to death, is so shocking that I can’t tell the difference from a movie. There are still white police officers who perform such acts, even though they know they are being recorded by a camera. Similar incidents are bound to happen again.

While watching the movie, I thought about many things, including the conflict of “would I have been able to stop Krauss if I were there?”

Dismukes couldn’t stop Krauss because he was a “black” person in a weak position, so it would be unavoidable. But what if I were a white person like Krauss and went into the motel after sensing the commotion from outside like Dismukes? Could I have stopped Krauss?

I don’t think so. I usually get very angry at irrationality and injustice, so I can’t tolerate someone like Krauss and feel nothing but anger. However, when it comes to whether I could stop him or not, it’s a different story. If those in power lose their restraint, there’s nothing citizens can do.

I was also reminded of the terrifying nature of a gun society. In this movie, only the police officers possess guns, but in America, anyone can possess a gun, so even those who are not police officers can cause the same situation.

Living a life where you have to anticipate such possibilities would be quite tough.

In America, the idea of “having the right to defend oneself and carrying a gun for self-defense” has been seen as a given since the pioneer era. Of course, not all Americans may be accepting of guns. There are periodic incidents of heinous crimes such as school shootings, and there are surely many who believe that a society without guns is better.

If I were to make an argument along the lines of this article, I would say that “owning a gun” is a kind of “power”. Even if we start carrying a gun for “self defense,” the feeling that we have the right to kill would instill a “power” mindset, and I think it is fair to say that this makes “injustice by power” more accessible to us.

Of course, it is not the case that everything will be solved if guns are regulated. The fundamental problem is “racial discrimination”, and we must think about how different people can coexist if we are to make any progress. In today’s world, where “division” is accelerating for various reasons such as race, wealth, and ideology, we are reminded of the need to have discussions on “coexistence” once again.


“Constitutionalism” refers to the establishment of a “constitution” that constrains the state, and this “constitution” is created by us citizens. In other word, it means that we have a responsibility to monitor whether the state power is obeying the “constitution”.

We must not neglect this “monitoring” in order to live in a peaceful society ourselves.

Published Kindle books(Free on Kindle Unlimited)

“The genius Einstein: An easy-to-understand book about interesting science advances that is not too simple based on his life and discoveries: Theory of Relativity, Cosmology and Quantum Theory”

“Why is “lack of imagination” called “communication skills”?: Japanese-specific”negative” communication”

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