“Detroit”: A Brutal, Important Watch

Detroit

“Detroit” is directed by Katheryn Bigelow and stars Algee Smith, Jacob Lattimore, Anthony Mackie, John Boyega, Will Poulter, Jason Mitchell, and Hannah Murray.  The film is a dramatic telling of the true story of what went down at the Algiers Motel amidst the riots in Detroit that occurred in 1967.

I was very excited to see this film, as I do not know much of the Detroit riots from ’67 aside from the fact that they happened, and Katheryn Bigelow at the helm of it all obviously gets me all the more excited.  Bigelow doesn’t take many projects, but when she does, like with “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” they are tremendous, and so I was hoping she would continue her hot streak with this new one here.

The Good

Katheryn Bigelow has once again made a stunningly well-directed film, as she brings her unique, documentary-esque style to the camerawork, which truly adds so much to the impact of the scenes in this movie.  Bigelow, as well as cinematographer Barry Ackroyd come together to make a movie that feels as if it is a documentary, which makes moments that are tough to sit through on their own exponentially tougher, as it makes multiple scenes genuinely uncomfortable and that much more impactful, as Bigelow and Ackroyd make “Detroit” feel like something almost found footage, like something we shouldn’t be seeing.

The performances from this star-studded cast are all great, as each piece of this ensemble really brings a new layer to the movie as a whole.  Algee Smith and Jacob Lattimore are great in two of the more major performances, as both of them have a great chemistry with one another, while also bringing a ton of emotional stakes and impact to their respective roles.  Will Poulter truly steals the show in his scumbag turn as Officer Krauss in this movie.  Poulter is so brutally unlikable from start to finish that it is mesmerizing, and that is all in thanks to Poulter reaching to his most asshole state imaginable, while still maintaining a gritty, realistic performance in the process.  John Boyega was also very good in his role, though I wished that his character fully blossomed into a multi-dimensional persona more than he did.  Still, Boyega played the role very well and is certainly capable of performing in future films that don’t have the name “Star Wars” in the title.

This movie really pays an emotional toll on the audience for a large portion of the movie, as I just felt in pain and anger for the poor men and women who simply suffer for no good reason, and that is thanks to a mix of excellent direction by Bigelow and the great performances that she gets out of her cast.  This is truly a hard movie to watch, as there is seemingly no light at the end of this deep, dark tunnel, and there are times where it becomes truly excruciating, but always in a way where I felt impacted and in a style that felt totally necessary for the benefit of the movie.

The Bad

The film may go on a tad too long at 143 minutes, though a lot of what Bigelow puts into this film feels very necessary to tell the full story.  Still, there are some scenes in the opening and right at the end that could have potentially been cut to shave ten or so minutes from the runtime, as I did feel myself get a bit antsy in my seat towards the conclusion.

This is based on a true story, so I don’t know how much I can critique the storytelling, but to me there just seems like a pivotal piece of information that these victims could be telling the officers that no one really does, and if they would have, it could have ended this feud a lot earlier.  I won’t go into what exactly this is, but it felt pretty obvious to me as the scenes continued, and I just kept waiting for this moment to come up and it never did.

Conclusion

“Detroit” is a brutally powerful piece of filmmaking that is excellently directed and very well acted.  This is an important movie and one that shook me to my core quite a few times, and while it runs a little long, it is still a movie that gives its monumental real life story justice, while making a constantly tense and fist clenching experience.

Badge-8.5

Get tickets and showtimes for “Detroit” here

What did you think of “Detroit”?  Comment below with your thoughts.


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