Review: Detroit

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PLOT: During the 1967 12th Street riot in Detroit, an investigation by a riot task force into gunfire at the Algiers Motel left three black civilians dead and several witnesses badly injured. Kathryn Bigelow's DETROIT attempts to recreate the events of the Algiers Motel incident based on existing evidence and witness testimony.

REVIEW: If you've seen THE HURT LOCKER or ZERO DARK THIRTY, you know two things about Kathryn Bigelow. One is that she's a master filmmaker, and the other is that she's not afraid to torture her audience in order to convey the suffering being depicted onscreen. After seeing DETROIT, I can confirm without a shadow of a doubt that these two statements still ring as true as ever. As the Algiers Motel incident serves as the centerpiece of the story, we find ourselves trapped in the middle of the brutal investigation for much of the film with no sign of escape, and our endurance for discomfort is put to the test. The three police officers leading the task force are all white males, and the residents of the motel are comprised of seven black males and two white females, so needless to say it doesn't take long for the film to develop very strong themes surrounding race, gender, and the corruption of power.

Before everything goes to shit, we follow a day in the life of our major players. John Boyega stars as Melvin Dismukes, a security guard who joins the police investigation of the shootings. Dismukes, in his struggle to keep the peace, figure out exactly what the hell is going on, and keep the police in check, serves as midway point between the authority figures and the victims and gives us a potential hero to root for. Will Poulter is Officer Krauss, quick to brutalize anyone who looks at him the wrong way and willing to take drastic measures to ensure his safety and escape from blame. Algee Smith's Cleveland Larry Reed serves as the emotional core of the film. A singer in the Motown group The Dramatics, Larry wants nothing more than to celebrate life and sing for the people.

Other cast members include MCU mainstay Anthony Mackie as Greene, who does his best to protect motel residents Karen and Julie, played by Kaitlyn Dever and Game of Thrones' Hannah Murray, Jason Mitchell as Carl, whose cavalier behavior gets us into this mess in the first place, and Jacob LatimoreJack Reynor, Ben O'Toole, Malcolm David Kelley, Samira Wiley, Tyler James Williams, and John Krasinski, all of whom round out the film beautifully. The acting in DETROIT is phenomenal, with the cast proving not only its talent but also its dedication to telling this story.

Mark Boal's script is sharp, heartfelt, and organic and even offers some lighter moments until there is no longer room for any. Boal's script and William Goldenberg's editing combied with Bigelow's directing and Barry Ackroyd's cinematography make for a film that never fails to stimulate and impress. DETROIT makes you feel like it's 1967- but like you're in 1967 rather than watching the pageantry of a period piece.

I won't go into how the story wraps up, as I'm sure many of you will want to go into this without researching the event first, but suffice it to say the reason this incident was and remains so contentious is that the outcome for many of the characters- both sympathetic and antagonistic- is frustrating to say the least. A 50 year-old story has never seemed so relevant, and as you watch the plot unfold, you will most certainly find yourself recounting some of the racially charged news stories of the past several years. If there's any downside to DETROIT, it's that those frustrations don't allow much of a silver lining. It's a film that unapologetically says, "this is the way the world is," without offering much in the way of hope (or at least a call to action).

DETROIT is one hell of an endurance test and will leave you craving closure as the credits roll, but it will also undoubtedly go down as one of the finest films of the year. This is absolutely one worth seeing in the theater, where you can't hit pause, look down at your phone, or take a break and come back later (not to mention being able to experience the excellent sound design and visuals in a theatrical setting). The only way to experience a story like this is to be thrust into the middle of the action and put yourself at the mercy of the film.

Source: JoBlo.com



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