review by Bobby Blakey
There are stories in history that should not be forgotten and thankfully a lot of them are being brought to the big screen to tell their tales. The latest, Detroit features a great cast including John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore, Jason Mitchell, Hannah Murray, Kaitlyn Dever, Jack Reynor, Ben O’Toole, Joseph David Jones, Ephraim Sykes, Leon Thomas III, Nathan Davis Jr., Peyton Alex Smith, Malcolm David Kelley, Gbenga Akinnabve, Chris Chalk, Jeremy Strong, Laz Alonzo, Austin Hebert, Miguel Pimentel, Kris Davis, with John Krasinski and Anthony Mackie and director Kathryn Bigelow at the helm. Could this film successfully bring to light this horrific event or will it be yet another case not worth solving?
Detroit follows a police raid in Detroit in 1967 that results in one of the largest citizen uprisings in United States history. The story is centered around The Algiers Motel Incident, which occurred in Detroit, Michigan on July 25, 1967, during the racially charged 12th Street Riot. It involves the death of three black men and the brutal beatings of nine other people: seven black men and two white women. When you go into a movie like this you already have certain expectations just due to the events that occurred. I wasn’t completely aware of all the details of this situation, but I knew a bit about it but still wasn’t sure how Bigelow was going to make this all work. They waste not time jumping right in with a quick recap to how the country got to the point it was in at that time and didn’t spend a lot of time trying to force feed the audience stuff that was not necessary to the rest of the film. Outside of the major portion of the story there is a bit of musical history as well due to the involvement of the lead singer of the famed Dramatics.
I must admit I built up a very different movie in my head as I expected something way more racially forced that it actually was. Don’t get me wrong this is all about race and the abuse of power, but I believe we have usually gotten films that either play it too safe and fails to connect or they push it so far over the top it is just unnecessary. This film hits it right in the middle of keeping with the thoughts and racist views of the time and issues they faced without trying to make everyone something more than they were. Make no mistake these were still horrible people behind it, but because it played out more realistic it was way more impactful and horrifying to me. I found myself numerous shaking my head in disgust and shock as the events unfolded. The performance were all great across the board with Will Poulter’s menacing performance stealing the movie in the best most horrible way possible. John Boyega is great, but surprisingly was not as much of the focus as I had expected. He plays an important part but the way it was promoted I thought it was going to be all about him and it is far from that.
If you don’t know anything about this historical moment I suggest completely refraining from reading up on it or doing any research. Go see the film firsts and let it unfold for you and let the experience affect you the way a film like this should. Bigelow has always been great at building tension and does yet another amazing job with this film. Once it gets going the tension stays high in a way that will keep you guessing on what could possibly happen next without ever feeling like they tried to over Hollywood it despite having to take some liberties with the story due to the unknown elements.
I loved this film for both the high quality and impactful nature that it conveys, but also for the sheer great filmmaking that went into making it. BE warned that while not overly graphic it is a film that will not be easy for some to watch and takes place in a time that was just not one that we want to relive, but sadly are seeing shadows of it creep up on us once again. This film comes at the perfect time due to this sad state of affairs and I can only hope that it not only serves to bring to light this horrible situation, but also expose that we are leaning over that thin line of repeating sins.