I’m going to go straight to the point; I recently saw Detroit at the cinema and felt the need to write a review. Not on how close it stuck to the events the film is based on (due to fact that I know nothing about the events that took place and I’m not a historian…), but on just how great this film was.
The film is based on the Detroit riot of 1967, but more specifically what happened between three white police officers, a black armed security guard, a white National Guard soldier, a handful of young black men, and two young white women in the Algiers Motel. Yes – their skin colour is important in this incredibly racially charged scenario.
With those notes out of the way I want to get started on the story.
During the riots two young black up-and-coming talents (Algee Smith & Jacob Latimore) find themselves stranded in the same Algiers Motel room with three jokey black men and two white women (Hannah Murray & Kaitlyn Dever). After the night becomes a bit more relaxed, the leader of the three men (Jason Mitchell) shoots a starter pistol outside the window – aiming at the police and national guard for fun.
Already on high alert and now startled and looking for sniper fire, the National Guard, three policemen (lead by Krauss – played by Will Poulter) and a nearby security officer (John Boyega) discover the source of the ‘gunfire’ and raid the Algiers Motel. With interrogations on the go for the location of the supposed sniper rifle, Krauss (the trigger-happy racist) kills two unarmed black men for no reason, and Krauss’ fellow officer kills a black man ‘accidently’ for not understanding the interrogation game – with the rest of the victims left beaten, bloody, and mentally scarred.
With Krauss threatening a couple of the interrogation survivors to keep their mouths shut, he is soon after charged by his superior for the murders he and the officers committed. The last 25 minutes of the film is dedicated to quickly going over how the police officers won the case in court with the help of their lawyer (John Kransinski) and how Larry (Algee) copes with the incident after the trials are over.
That’s pretty much it for the story, an intense game of interrogation between Krauss and the victims in the motel. I did miss out how the National Guardsman and Boyega’s character come into the mix, but they don’t actually play a huge part in this – other than Boyega being great example of character development by being a stand in witness during the interrogation.
Of course, the story is based on a real-life event that we in the present cannot relive physically, but this film does an amazing job at dramatising what happened in that motel, and transporting us back to that darker time. Beat by beat (not knowing the history of the 1967 Detroit riot) I could see and predict two paths the story was going to go down, either Krauss was going to kill all the suspects or they were going to escape and take him to court.
We got to see the situation from each of the character’s eyes – from Krauss’ mad determination to find a weapon so that he could abuse/kill the suspects, to Larry not knowing if he was going to live and then going on to quitting his dreams just so he didn’t have to work with white people ever again. The story is truly gripping from the start of the film where we are shown the lead up to the motel incident, right until the end when we see how Larry deals with what happened.
The words ‘all star talent’ spring to mind when I think about the acting in this movie. Algee Smith plays one of the leads, a singer at the start of the film who is hell-bent on making it to the big leagues with his band The Dramatics. Alongside Boyega, Algee also had a clear character progression, from the kid with a dream to being traumatised, to then being a survivor which I was 100 percent convinced by. Not to mention, some of my favourite parts in this film were when he sang – it gave me chills!
Will Poulter has proved time and time again what he can do, from the funny kid in We’re The Millers to the antagonist in Maze Runner and then a victim in The Revenant. Now he gifts us with a shockingly outstanding performance in Detroit as a screw-loose racist cop. By the end of the film I hated his character and low key wished that Larry would perform some vendetta on him all hitman style (like at the end of Wanted).
I must also give props to Boyega. He pretty much plays the ultimate witness as he could walk around and witness everything during the interrogation, which then lead to him being caught up in the court trial himself as the defendant to assault. From the very beginning with next to no dialogue, we see through his body language and facial expression how he questions his morals and ideals, whether he should be stopping Krauss but at the same time conflicted because it was Mitchell’s character that started this mess.
Director Kathryn Bigelow did an amazing job with this film, bringing to life this dramatization of such a shocking and jaw-dropping moment in recent American history. So shocking and great of a film this is, the friend I saw this with was left speechless 20 minutes into the film – so major shout out to Kathryn Bigelow.
The last thing I wanted to mention was the box office numbers. The budget for Detroit was an estimated $34M (USD) and was released August 4th. It’s sad to say (at time of writing) that this film has only made $16.1M (a loss of $18M). This is not good at all because it lets the studio(s) know that this kind of film is unpopular when in fact in the times like we live in today films like these are needed more than ever, to help show people not to make the same mistakes made only 50 years ago.
Thank you for reading this review, it is very much appreciated. If you liked my first fresh out of the cinema review than give us a like and share! if you would like to discuss the film with me then feel free to @ me @ @charliewarnerw. If you didn’t like this review then *waves hand slowly* this is not the review you’re looking for.