She time and again has riveted us with an outstanding body of work which includes Black Hawk Down, The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Academy Award-winning Director Kathryn Bigelow is back and just as impactful as ever on her latest effort, DETROIT. The Film gives us a look at what took place at the Algiers Motel incident during the racially-charged Detroit 12th Street Riots in 1967. Three black men were killed and nine people were brutally beaten, including seven black men and two white women.
A group of friends are brought together one fateful night at Detroit’s Algiers Motel. Things take a turn for the worst when in an act of rebellion, Carl (Jason Mitchell) fires warning shots out the window from a race-starting pistol, triggering a group of police offers to arrive at the motel, responding with vigilance and aggression. Convinced the shots were fired by a sniper, Detroit Police Officer Philip Krauss shoots dead Carl, and when he realizes the victim was unarmed he leaves behind a knife to frame the shooting as an act of self defense. After much coercion, the team of officers still are unable to produce the sought-after gun, pushing the violence to escalate in a horrifying web of corruption with these men and women held against their will, as the officers employ ruthless duress tactics to elicit a confession.
What Bigelow and scribe Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker) capture amazingly well in Detroit is a sense of terror that is not unlike watching a Horror Film. Clocking-in at almost two-and-a-half hours, the Film is paced to perfection, leaving us trembling as we live these victims’ nightmare, fixated on just how they will flee the horrendous predicament in which they are placed. While the Film wraps with a disclaimer that it was constructed based on accounts of those who survived the incident and footage, the terrifying abuse of power they endured still feels very real. You will be left shaken.
While the violence and bloodshed are plentiful, the Film’s most shocking moments come in its Final Act, examining the legal formalities which ultimately excused the police offers of the inexcusable. We see the impact on those involved from security guard Melvin Dismukes (John Boyega) who too becomes implicated because he too is black to aspiring musician Larry (Algee Smith) whose dreams are derailed completely. Some 50 years after these events took place still today we find ourselves examining race relations and justice at the forefront of public discussion.
Bigelow makes a star of several fresh faces, many of the cast actually imported. The biggest standout is English actor Will Poulter (The Maze Runner, The Revenant) who stretches his dramatic range here as the volatile Philip Krauss, going to all lengths to justify his abusive actions and cover his own tracks. Irish-American actor Jack Reynor (Transformers: Age of Extinction, Jungle Book) is barely recognizable as “yes man” Demens and English actress Hannah Murray (Game of Thrones) particularly is memorable as the grounded Julie Ann. Newcomer Algee Smith particularly is great as Larry, stamping himself as one to keep an eye on.
A Film this powerful and poignant normally is saved for Festival and Awards Season, but fortunately we are able to see one of the year’s best much sooner than that. eOne Films release DETROIT Friday, August 4, 2017.