Detroit

Film, Drama
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Detroit

The director of the Oscar-winning ‘The Hurt Locker’ has made an electrifying, troubling and relevant drama set in the heat of the violent 1967 Detroit riots

Over her last three features – ‘The Hurt Locker’, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and now the electrifying ‘Detroit’ – Kathryn Bigelow has become America’s most accomplished director of war movies. They’re not the glacially styled, ultra-heroic combat epics that make grown men cry (though Bigelow has won her share of awards) but films about the way we fight right now. Hers is a trilogy loaded with confusion, stress and the secret unease that lingers long after the battlefield is empty. ‘Detroit’ is set in the late 1960s, primarily during the racially fraught riots that tore the city apart on a televised stage in the summer of 1967. But to watch Bigelow’s expertly calibrated chaos during the riots’ escalation – nothing short of block-by-block guerilla warfare – is to witness something depressingly familiar to anyone who has seen the videos of today’s police brutality, of violently botched arrests and furious community responses, and worried that it would never get better. (It never did.)

Almost shockingly, ‘Detroit’ cuts away from the riots to a glorious Motown concert happening mere blocks away from the fighting – how could such heavenly harmonies survive the night? (Mark Boal’s well-researched screenplay draws on actual events.) We meet a rising young combo, the Dramatics, waiting offstage for their moment to win the crowd. But they never get their chance, and the gig is cancelled out of nervousness. Dodging street skirmishes, lead singer Larry (Algee Smith) finds himself at the Algiers Motel – first partying, then sweating out the night – with an impulsive cop-baiting provocateur (Jason Mitchell, a live wire), two scared white women from Ohio, a wary black security guard (John Boyega in a performance of Denzel-like dignity) and, terrifyingly, a loose cannon from Detroit’s police force (Will Poulter, burning with rage).

The standoff at the Algiers Motel has entered legend (if not widely known history) as a notorious incident of injustice. Bigelow makes it the centrepiece of ‘Detroit’ and, simply put, in doing so has crafted her most harrowing piece of filmmaking. It consumes more than an hour and scrapes the far edge of a nightmare: the handcuffed suspects emitting naked fear, the officers leaning into self-righteousness with horrible consequences. To the movie’s enormous credit (and displaying an ambition that feels slightly overstuffed), it doesn’t end there but with a criminal trial. But the point of ‘Detroit’ – easily among the most essential films of the year – is the aftermath: the blood was washed away, but the guilt stuck around. 

By: Joshua Rothkopf

Posted:

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday August 25 2017
Duration: 143 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Screenwriter: Mark Boal
Cast: John Boyega
Will Poulter
Anthony Mackie
Jason Mitchell

Average User Rating

4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:3
  • 4 star:3
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|8
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Tastemaker

Highly recommended. Get ready for an intense and shocking story based of true facts.

It shows a very difficult moment in US history that I wish it never repeats itself but that unfortunately the odds are not in our favour.

Sad and upsetting film, that should be watched by all.


Tastemaker

Wow! What a movie. It is a work of art that is also in my view something that should be compulsory viewing as part of world history. The film centres on systemic racism and the abuse of power and how that has tragic and terrible consequences. The thing that depressed and maddened me is that I don't believe it is historical, stuff like this is happening now.


Everyone has a responsibility to educate themselves and take action!


The performances and direction are sensational.


This  is by no means an easy watch but it is essential. 



This cinemagoer has admired film director Kathryn Bigelow since seeing her weirdly brilliant 1995 movie “Strange Days” which took us into a world where you can be a murderer, a robber, a sexual athlete,  or just name it, buddy. All you had to do was attach a video of someone else’s real experience to your cerebral cortex and away you go.


Since then she has wowed the critics with “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty”, amongst others. And has now topped it off with a brilliant account of dirty deeds and racial tensions in 1967 Detroit - a riot waiting to happen.


Anyone who thinks female OAPs aren’t tough enough to handle some of the blood-curdling incidents in this tale should quickly remind his or herself that 65-year-old Ms Bigelow is the only woman (so far) to have won an Academy Award for best director with “The Hurt Locker”.


The film covers an incident where racist white police beat and murder some of a group of blacks holed up with a pair of white girls in a seedy hotel. 


Gunshots from inside the hotel with a starting pistol precipitate rioting and civil mayhem on a massive scale and this viewer found the dark introductory scenes of shooting, shouting and total confusion hard to follow but the action moves relentlessly on until the violence is being shown on national TV networks.


After the hurly-burly is done and a few red herrings swim around, the Detroit police accused are brought to trial and found “not guilty” of all charges by (guess what?) an all-white jury. Sorry for this spoiler if you were unaware of the background.


On most levels this is among Ms Bigelow’s finest films with its narrative skills, breadth of vision, top-class cinematography — all backed by some terrific acting from an accomplished cast.


One final point. I try to keep my mini-reviews as mini as possible as my undoubtedly few readers would be even fewer if the temptation to go into greater detail was indulged.


But for a movie based on factual events which graphically depicts dreadful beatings and three murders, the accused were found innocent. A legal minefield for the surviving characters, one would think?


Tastemaker

Kathryn Bigelow is a master of directing films that I generally find myself only ever wanting to watch once. She’s brilliant at what she does and her skills at weaving stories of suspense & tension are unparalleled but I rarely think to myself ‘hey, this is something I can see myself vegging out in front of on a lazy Sunday afternoon’. It doesn’t mean these films shouldn’t be made but just that I don’t find myself returning to them time and again; such was the case with both ‘The Hurt Locker’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and now ‘Detroit’ joins those ranks.


Honestly, I was expecting more. I was anticipating a film that would give me a similar visceral reaction to the one I experienced watching ‘Dunkirk’ recently and while the story was distressing with some scenes very uncomfortable to watch, it didn’t feel like the gut punch I’d been led to believe I’d experience. In fact some of the most shocking moments for me were fleeting when compared to the longer, more drawn out set pieces; the smile on Will Poulter’s face post-trial or the decimation by gunfire of a window where a blind was tweaked by a small girl as opposed to the presumed sniper.


The set-up and background to the riots is well handled and the opening scenes of animation were original, unexpected and provoking. The cast was a capable mix of well-known-but-not-yet-mega-star-actors with Poulter’s cop Krauss and Algee Smith’s wannabe warbler Larry particularly excellent and, by turn, disturbing and heart-breaking. Given the relatively level cast playing field, I did find the odd recognisable face quite jarring though – I didn’t think John Krasinski or Anthony Mackie’s roles would have been any less impactful had they been played by unknown faces.


Judging by the marketing for ‘Detroit’, much seems to have been made of John Boyega’s role and although this is probably the best I’ve ever seen him, truth be told this is not his film and his is not the only or even the biggest story being told. Boyega works best for me when he’s not carrying the entire film on his own shoulders and, as a fairly low-key part of the ensemble cast here, he is thoughtful and solid. Bigelow’s direction is as good as anything she’s done before, the whole piece is intense to watch and, at nearly 150 minutes, feels like a full on investment of your time and energy. The earlier street scenes are particularly brutal and alarming and there are definitely moments when I could taste the fear of not knowing if the people in charge of keeping you safe would in fact bother to do that or simply eliminate you.


‘Detroit’ is worth seeing if you’ve no real understanding of or connection with this period of history because every scene is a depressingly painful reminder of how little progress has been made over the past several decades but there was an inexplicable level of detachment for me. I’m honestly not sure that the people who would need to watch this will do so, and those who know how wrong the events of the movie are, knew so before the first scenes started rolling. 

Tastemaker

I have seen the trailer to this several times and have been looking forward to it being released.  Despite the trailers saying that it is a very famous event,  I had never heard of it, so went to see the film not knowing anything about it other than what I saw in the trailer.


It is a very powerful film and well acted.  Like the reviewer below, I found myself getting really frustrated and angry that people should think it acceptable to treat other humans like this and still do.


This is a definite one to watch as a warning to people that this sort of thing should not happen again.  If it had not been a true story, I would have found parts of it a bit far fetched or illogical, but unfortunately the story is based on statements and accounts of what went on.


I left the cinema with the need to know more about what happened next and it was interesting to read.


Ignore the negative review below - who clearly walked into the wrong screen by mistake and then sat down on his elbow. One of the best films of 2017 and so timely in its politics that will make you more than a little angry. Wonderful editing takes the viewer from a documentary style over-view right into a dramatic close-up of real life events during the Detroit Riots of 1967 (hardly the summer of love). This is cinema at its most powerful that tells a piece of (African) American history crying out to be heard.


I loved Hurt Locker, and thought it deserved more awards than it got.  Zero Dark Thirty was a bit of a let-down by comparison, though still good.  But Detriot is dire:  Leaden plot; lazy dialogue; mediocre footage; and not particularly good acting - I didn't find myself interested in any of the characters.  Despite getting to the three-quarters-way-through mark, I still walked rather than sit through more of the same.  Where her other films deserved awards, this doesn't, and I doubt will get them.  Two stars (and I'm being fairly generous).

tastemaker





Katherine Bigalow’s new film ‘Detroit’ based on the riots that happened back in 1967 is finally out this weekend all across the UK. It’s a heartbreaking, emotional, gritty, violent and uncomfortable story to watch. I couldn’t help but think about the race tensions all these years later in America with Trumps current reign and feel sad.


The film was well made and authentic of the period, but this isn’t a fictional movie to just entertain or provoke a reaction. It’s something that actually happened, with that in mind I feel like the Director/Producer/Writer have a huge responsibility to honour the people that suffered and lost so much because of the injustice at that time. Telling someone elses story is the hardest thing you can do, especially as there are always multiple sides.


It’s always going to be incredibly difficult to tell the story when you were not there or personally affected, however it is still possible to honour that time and the people correctly. The problem I have is when you research ‘Detroit Riots’ there are different perspectives and side stories explaining why people were looting and rioting blaming racism and poverty as a huge factor. It has to be said that Katherine and her team did get the back stories from as much of the the real people who went through the ordeal over 50 years ago.



I think it’s important to make films like this as we have to learn from our history and remember how much we have grown since then ( even though Trump is trying to destroy our world unity) The fact that ‘Detroit’ has created so much opinion and debate is awesome in my opinion. It means we care and we want to discuss and understand rather then just stuff our faces with popcorn and escape into make believe for 2 hours. Nothing wrong with that but there is a time and place for everything. I say watch ‘Detroit’ and do your own research on what that city went through and is still going through even now.


Let me know your thoughts I’m intrigued to hear what you think.


Max xxx