Out this week in cinema is Detroit, a film based around the riots that plagued this city in the late 60’s. Celebrated director Kathryn Bigelow has brought together a young and talented cast of actors to tell the story of the raid on the Algier hotel during the 1967 Detroit riots. Bigelow tells the story in three parts, the lives of the people involved before the event, during the event, and the aftermath of the event.
Detroit stars John Boyega as Melvin Dismukes, a security guard who tries his best not to ruffle feathers hoping that he can mediate the violence going on around him, trying to keep both the black people and the white people safe. As well as Boyega there is Jacob Latimore and Algee Smith who play Fred Temple and Larry Reed respectively. These two young men are hoping to use Larry’s beautiful singing voice to help them leave Detroit and head to Motown Records for fame and fortune. To complete the trio of perspectives, the audience is given in Detroit we also meet Philip Krauss (Will Poulter) a police officer who, along with his cronies, dispenses “justice” to those he deems to be the unjust of Detroit in these dire times. The story opens up with these people in different places trying to survive the destruction around them until one night they all find themselves in the Algier hotel what would follow would change all their lives irrevocably.
Director Kathryn Bigelow has crafted a genuinely breathtaking experience, between the nerve-wracking performances to the heart-rending set pieces there is so much to take in. Bigelow’s casting decisions are one of the many elements that bolster the potency of Detroit. A particular devastating highlight is young Will Poulter, many may remember him from such films as We’re The Millers and The Maze Runner but after this film audiences will be paying attention to this young man’s career. Philip (Poulter) is a monstrous and chilling villain, the key reason is that he believes he is the hero. That the black people who are causing the rioting need to be taught a lesson, no matter how brutal it may be and it’s disturbing to watch.
And that’s what Detroit boils down to, brutality. There are no happy endings, few lessons are learned and lives are destroyed. It’s a harsh and bitter lesson that Bigelow and her cast gets across to the audience and at times it can leave you emotionally raw.
The film is also visually arresting, Detroit comes across as a war zone and its people are equally as scarred. There are several noteworthy scenes including the character of Philip (Poulter) chasing down a lone looter and how that scene escalates is incredible. There is also a scene involving a small child that will bring you to tears through sheer shock value of what transpires. If there are any issues with Detroit it is that it’s too long and loses its momentum towards the end of the film. If a select few scenes had been edited down then the film would have had an even more powerful punch.
Through its tormenting visuals, the uncompromising performances, and the disturbingly topical nature of its subject matter Detroit will be an emotional and memorable experience at the cinema. Be sure and check it out as I have no doubt many of the young actors in this film are rising stars.