By Sam Mosher, E23 Reporter
“The Force” covers a lot of issues in its approximately 90 minute runtime. It discusses police brutality, race relations, sexual harassment and masculine culture, but largely fails to address these issues beyond just a surface level observation.
“The Force” is about the Oakland Police Department in one of the worst runs of its existence. Taking place from 2014 to fall 2016, “The Force” chronologically follows the various controversies involving the police department.
These include the police shooting of a black man, a sex scandal involving an underage girl and racist text messages shared between officers.
According to officials and citizens featured in the film, the Oakland Police Department is fundamentally flawed. At the time of the movie’s filming, the government had been monitoring the department for 13 years due to its various scandals. One of the most interesting observations made in the movie is that the department is a victim of a “toxic masculine culture.”
However, despite all of the issues that “The Force” presents, it never attempts to analyze their causes. Director Peter Nicks views “The Force” as an examination of the relationship between the police force and the Oakland community.
While the documentary certainly shows this relationship, it never goes deeper. The film simply “shows,” never offering any deeper or more meaningful lesson to be learned from the department’s mistakes.
To Nicks’ credit, “The Force” is remarkable in how close it gets to the police department. While the film never has a single interview (with anyone for that matter), it showcases monologues and conversations from within the department’s academy, patrol cars, and many press briefings.
Due to the lack of direct interviews, the movie’s core flaw is how it shows, and not analyzes. Many of the speeches given by a police department official are included in their entirety.
This becomes boring, and often quite repetitive. This is especially true of the first third of the documentary, which shows the department trying to get its act together.
This first third is the weakest part of “The Force.” This portion is simply too long in context with the rest of the documentary. It sets up the film as a redemption tale, and as the rest of the movie is relentless in detailing the department’s flaws, the first third seems a little unnecessary.
For someone who knew nothing about the controversies surrounding the Oakland Police Department, “The Force” was interesting simply because of its subject matter. Its close proximity to the department helped humanize the officers and police chief.
However, “The Force” fails as an analytical piece. It shows the relationship between the department and its community, but fails to explain the force’s systemic problems that have caused so many issues in the past three years.
Overall, “The Force” does a fine job of summarizing the various scandals of the Oakland Police Department. If you have no background knowledge of these controversies, then “The Force” is at least somewhat interesting. But if you are already familiar with these events, this documentary is certainly not worth your time.