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REVIEW: Detroit

Review by Dustin Heller

Detroit is the new film from acclaimed director Kathryn Bigelow, which is based on the Detroit riots in 1967.  Bigelow won the Academy Award for Best Director with 2009’s Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker, which, along with Detroit, was written by her collaborative partner, Mark Boal.  The two of them also collaborated on my favorite film from 2012, Zero Dark Thirty.  The ensemble cast includes John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jason Mitchell, Hannah Murray, Kaitlyn Dever, John Krasinski and Anthony Mackie.  Detroit is Rated R for strong violence and pervasive language.

In the summer of 1967, a police raid on an after-hours party in Detroit sends the city into a tailspin and rioting ensues.  This rioting between the African-American citizens and the police comes to a head at the Algiers Motel on July 25.  The police believe a sniper was shooting from the motel and during the questioning process, three black men were shot and killed and nine others beaten.  The film tells the story of the individuals involved in this horrific incident and the trial which ensued.

Detroit is one of the most raw and intense films you will see this year.  The tension is so thick throughout the entire film that it almost becomes overbearing towards the end.  The story of the nightmare that took place at the Algiers Motel is a terribly sad and tragic one, but without a doubt one that needs to be told.  Even today, we can learn and grow from the mistakes of our past.  Kathryn Bigelow has recently taken some criticism over not being the right person to tell this story, but after seeing the film, I’m not sure how anyone could argue otherwise.  She paints a beautifully tragic picture that truly pays homage to the horrific events and the individuals involved on that fateful evening.   Bigelow deserves a lot of the credit, but this film wouldn’t have been nearly as strong if it weren’t for the incredible acting performances.  The entire cast knocked my socks off, but the performances by Will Poulter, Algee Smith and John Boyega were transcendent.  As powerful as the movie is, it does have its faults as well.  The running time became a factor, especially after the scene inside the Algiers was over.  That scene is so emotional and powerful that I really felt the movie would have been better served to end at that point.  Detroit is without a doubt a very difficult film to watch, yet an important piece of American history, and is definitely worthy of a trip to the Cineplex.

Grade:  B

Detroit opens in theaters on Friday, August 4.

You can follow Dustin Heller on Instagram @eatindywatchindie.