This is one of the first films to throw its hat into the ring for early Oscar contention – and is a highly recommended potential nominee to see out the summer movie season.
Any film coming from Kathryn Bigelow, the Academy Award-winning director of The Hurt Locker – and (for me) the even more impressive Zero Dark Thirty and cult favourite Point Break – usually deserves our attention, and this drama set around the 1967 Detroit riots should get that.
The only problem is it hasn’t really found an audience either side of The Pond, which is a shame because it boasts strong performances from The Force Awakens’ John ‘Finn’ Boyega, Algee Smith (Earth to Echo) and particularly a potentially Oscar-nominated turn from rising British star Will Poulter (The Maze Runner and The Revenant).
The based-on-true-events Detroit opens with unrest from the oppressed black community in the Motor City, but after the first half-an-hour sets the scene, Bigelow turns the rest of the movie’s focus on one particular incident at the Algiers Motel, which saw the death of three black men and the brutal beatings of nine other people, as racist cops try to keep law and order.
When Jason Mitchell’s (Straight Outta Compton) Carl fires a toy gun at police – including Poulter’s Krauss and Jack Reynor’s (Transformers: Age of Extinction) Demens – the heavy-handed law enforcers round up a dozen people in the annex, and after killing one potential perpetrator, feel the strain to get the rest of the potential protagonists to admit wrongdoing to legitimise their actions.
Among the detainees include founding member of up-and-coming Motown soul group The Dramatics, Larry (Smith), Anthony Mackie’s (Captain America: Civil War) Vietnam war vet Greene, and two young white women – Hannah Murray’s Julie and Kaitlyn Dever’s Karen – who particularly get vilified for being in the presence of black men.
What pans out is a tense and intriguing set play that generally hits the spot – particularly with Poulter’s unhinged performance – as mind games, corruption and racism takes centre stage.
It will probably come up short being an Oscar front-runner in the Best Film stakes due to some pacing and editing issues – that doesn’t make it run quite as smoothly as it should – but for the most part this is intriguingly watchable fare that tells a compelling story of a little known time in history. For us Brits at least.
But the main reason to see another solid outing from Bigelow is for the film’s young stars – which shows there’s a real burgeoning generation of talent ready to take Hollywood by storm.
Rating: 4/5 Gavin Miller