KATHRYN BIGELOW MASTERFULLY CAPTURES ONE OF THE DARKEST MOMENTS IN AMERICAN HISTORY!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** ½ out of 4
It’s time we knew about Detroit
I’m convinced director, Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break, The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) can do absolutely no wrong. Case and point, her latest movie, Detroit based on the real-life events of the Algiers Motel incident during the 12th Street Riot in 1967 Detroit.
Title wise, Detroit isn’t a very accurate name for this movie as it doesn’t really focus on the Detroit riots as a whole but rather a tragic event in American history that’s ironically more horrifying than any horror movie. And they did a damn good job dramatizing the motel incident and life in 1967 Detroit. Bigelow is a master of all the moviemaking tricks, documentary-style filmmaking, harsh intensity, and a powerful story that really makes you think.
The film is centered around the Algiers Motel incident which occurred in Detroit, Michigan on July 25, 1967 during the racially charged 12th Street Riot. It involved the death of three black men and the beatings of nine other people, seven black men and two white women by racist police officers...that’s literally the majority of the movie right there.
The film stars John Boyega (Attack the Block, Junkhearts, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as Melvin Dismukes, Will Poulter (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, We’re the Millers, The Maze Runner) as Phillip Krauss, Jacob Latimore (Black Nativity, Ride Along, The Maze Runner) as Fred Temple, Jason Mitchell (Contraband, Straight Outta Compton, Kong: Skull Island) as Carl Cooper, Hannah Murray (In Bruges, Chatroom, Game of Thrones) as Julie Ann, Kaitlyn Dever (Justified, The Spectacular Now, Short Term 12) as Karen, Jack Reynor (Transformers: Age of Extinction, Sing Street, Free Fire) as Demens, John Krasinski (The Office, The Wind Rises, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi) as Attorney Auerbach, Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker, Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Night Before) as Greene, Joseph David-Jones (The Divergent Series: Allegiant, Nashville, Legends of Tomorrow) as Morris, Ephraim Sykes (30 Rock, Smash, Crisis in Six Scenes) as Jimmy, Leon Thomas III (August Rush, Bad Asses, Fear the Walking Dead) as Darryl, Peyton Alex Smith (The Quad) as Lee, Malcolm David-Kelly (Lost, Mississippi Damned, Gigantic) as Michael Clarke, Chris Chalk (Rent, 12 Years a Slave, Gotham) as Officer Frank, Jeremy Strong (Lincoln, Selma, Black Mass) as Attorney Lang, Laz Alonso (Jarhead, Stomp the Yard, Straw Dogs) as John Conyers Jr., Miguel (Live by Night) as Malcolm, Samira Wiley (Being Flynn, Orange is the New Black, The Handmaid’s Tale) as Vanessa, Tyler James Williams (Unaccompanied Minors, Peeples, Dear White People) as Leon, and Glenn Fitzgerald (A Price Above Rubies, The Ice Storm, Flirting with Disaster) as Homicide Detective Anderson.
Overall, Detroit is an unpleasant yet unforgettable experience that is definitely worth a watch, it hits you right in the feels hard and brutal and as you’re watching the movie you start to feel sad and mad with the people in the film. Like Dunkirk it doesn’t build-up the events but rather throws the viewer right into the moment, there’s a little bit of backstory told in this weird and in my opinion out of place animation sequence but that’s pretty much all we got because as soon as that segment is over the harsh reality shows its ugly face and the brutality gets going.
And trust me, the violence and intense scenes depicted in the movie are absolutely terrifying, we spend a solid hour focusing on these nine people up against a wall in the motel being harassed, abused, and some even killed by police. It’s both hard to watch and yet you can’t look away at the same time because you’re so entranced in the moment as you’re watching it and you just can’t believe your eyes as what these cops do.
However, what makes the police brutality scarier is the acting behind it, specifically from Will Poulter as the leader of the racist police force who is absolutely amazing in this movie. Every time he’s on-screen sends chills down your spine and he sells every moment, yeah that whiny brat from the third Narnia movie and the dweeb from We’re the Millers delivered a scary performance and could possibly follow in the footsteps of Javier Bardem’s Anton from No Country for Old Men and Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight as one of cinema’s most terrifying performances.
I’d say my only real issue with this movie is that the ending drags a little, it’s not exactly a bad thing but there were a few times where I was like “Yeah, you could have stopped there and rolled the credits”. But that’s mostly a nitpick and it doesn’t stop me from appreciating this movie and what it speaks for.
Detroit is a movie that isn’t afraid to show you the harsh and brutal reality of one of the darkest moments in American history and accompanied with the cinematography, acting, and directing it almost feels like you’re watching a real-life event happen before your eyes. More than enough reasons to declare Detroit as my third favorite Kathryn Bigelow movie after The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty (Yeah, I’m one of the few people who actually thought Zero Dark Thirty was better than The Hurt Locker!), it’s a movie that stunned me, hit my emotions at all the right times, and now I kind of want to go see it again.