I can’t say I know too much about American history with only the basic knowledge beforehand of the Detroit riots but I managed to see an advance screening of Kathryn Bigelow’s latest movie and boy what an education.
It’s the summer of 1967 and civil unrest leads to riots across Detroit. One night during the riot reports of gunshots near the Algier Motel leads to unexpected levels of police brutality as racism and violence spills further out of control.
I felt absolutely sick to my stomach watching Detroit and for a long time afterwards too. In a way it’s probably the best film I never want to see again. But it definitely deserves to be seen and talked about.
Bigelow has always been a strong director that can amp up the tension to keep the audience at the edge of their seat but here the tension is brought to an almost unbearable level and there’s no action set piece or surfer drug dealers a la Point Break to release the anxiety.
From the off there’s a feeling of dread as the movie introduces you to Detroit 1967 and the group of characters caught up in one particularly awful night during the riots. That dread feels even worse as you know it is all based on real events and real people brutalised, beaten and killed by the police. With such an excellent cast giving their absolute all there are two in particular that stand out. Will Poulter is fantastic as officer Krauss, whose sinister and murderous actions leave you reeling the whole way through. I haven’t felt such an overwhelming feeling of hate towards a movie character for a long time. Then there’s Algee Smith who I never heard of before but is utterly heartbreaking as singer Larry Reed in this movie and has a lovely soulful voice. Hopefully this won’t be the last we see or hear from him.
It would have been easy enough to just stop right after the incident at the hotel when the audience is feeling bad enough but Bigelow doesn’t let up and doesn’t let its audience off the hook. She doesn’t just want to make you sad, she wants you to feel angry and not just about what happened that night in the hotel but at the injustice that continued on afterwards and still continues now. One of the most disturbing things about the film is the fact that very little has changed. You can’t make yourself feel better by saying well that’s all in the past now.
After seeing this Dunkirk has got some tough competition on its hands come Oscar season.
Rating 5/5 – see it, get angry and spread the word – this must be seen.