Human beings are capable of terrible things. I've believed this for many years: if Extraterrestrial Life ever came upon Earth, they would keep going. The brutality that humans show towards one another would be unfit for any visiting species-and all you have to do is look at our history.
Detroit-Kathryn Bigelow's ferociously unsettling new film-shines a light on one of the bleakest periods in our country's history.
The film uncovers the unfortunate incident that happened at the Algiers Hotel in Detroit during the 1967. Rioting had broken out days earlier on 12th Street after a routine police raid occurred at a late night party. As the police moved people to the streets, an angry crowd gathered and started looting stores and businesses. The Detroit Rebellion caused the Michigan National Guard to patrol the streets and setting everyone on edge. But it was three cops who ended up doing something truly horrific at the Algiers Hotel, taking the lives of three African Americans and viciously beating several others.
Bigelow tells the story with brute force, framing the camera around the incidents like she is shooting a guerilla warfare documentary-and not a summer release. Mark Boal's script doesn't shy away from any of the ugliness that happened on the streets, focusing in on the harshest of details. Are you ready to see an innocent man killed via a shotgun? Can you handle two women being beaten up by cops? This movie doesn't care about your feelings, because it has a story to tell. Bigelow and Boal's mission is to throttle your senses with true history.
John Boyega shows a decade's worth of growth as a security guard who comes to the aide of the victims while Algee Smith and Jacob Latimore produce raw innocence and fire two members of the Dramatics, a band that was about to step on a stage in Detroit when the riots cut short their initial debut. The entire film you will watch these young men run into evil after evil, knowing all of them will not survive.
The more popular talents of Anthony Mackie and John Krasinski have small fine roles, but my hat is tipped the most in this film to the three bad apples: Will Poulter (The Revenant), Jack Reynor (Transformers: Age of Extinction), and Ben O' Toole (Hacksaw Ridge). Playing the nasty cops who facilitate the most brutal events of the Detroit Rebellion, these three actors are compelling villains who bypass normal human emotion in the course of their sinister actions.
I'll be honest with you: writing this review isn't easy, because Detroit is at times hard to watch. From the moment the story begins in a delicate late night party before the cops arrive, you know things are going to get bad real quick, and it's still hard to take in. With the seemingly monthly recognition of race issues in our country and the Ferguson Riots still burning three years later, Detroit is a timely triumph for Bigelow.
In the same manner with which she treated the bombings in Iraq with The Hurt Locker and the hunt for Osama Bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty, she doesn't pull a single punch in telling this story. She makes sure that the action in the story comes off to the audience as sudden and brutal as if it were happening directly in front of you in the theater. There are no extra Hollywood dressing applied to this steak; extra cinematic marinade was left in the kitchen.
Yes, due to the lack of detailed reports, some of the plot details are manufactured, but the overall moral remains intact when the credits roll. The riots weren't the biggest problem in the 60's. For Detroit, that was a painful truth during a turbulent shift in our nations history. The behavior of the three police officers during that time, together with the crooked attorneys and investigators, were the problem. Decency went out the window at first glance.
Example: Will Poulter's Officer Krauss chases a thief through the streets early in the film. This happens after he and his cohorts drive by several looting and thieving parties. Krauss decides to chase down this particular man for an unknown reason, and during the chase, fires and hits the man with a shotgun. That man bleeds out hiding under a car, and Krauss is given a pep talk by his superior about protocol (basically, don't shoot people running away from you, standard stuff). The next scene, Krauss is out running after and shooting other people.
If you can bear it, Detroit is a must see film about a black eye in the United States of America's history. A time where bad things happened to good people because others decided to riot. Stereotypes were stamped in blood and murder took place when it really didn't have a place.
Bigelow and Boal aren't making movies to please popcorn lovers; they want to pull out the rug on the nation's tortured history. They are true renegades, a filmmaker/storyteller team that Hollywood needs right now. If the spring and summer infusion of superhero and larger than life action spectacles aren't your cup of tea, give Detroit a look. It will shake you in a different way, stirring something inside that will start an important conversation.