Hate only breeds hate.
One of the tensest I’ve been in the cinema was earlier this year with Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit is a close second, and she places you dead centre in the 12th Street Riots in Detroit, amongst the police brutality and racist tension that was rife in 1960s America.
Before becoming swept up in this 1967 time period, Bigelow chose to use an illustration that gave the film it’s legs to stand on, using the Great Migration as it’s launching point. This illustration is incredibly poignant and showcases the tensions although on a relatively small scale.
And Detroit is told around the centrepiece of an event at the Algiers motel that occurred during the riots. Mark Boal’s ability to interplay that with enough background to really amp up the tension on screen is integral to the middle section becoming one of the most terrifyingly shocking events throughout the film.
I was transfixed with Detroit, as a retaliation prank becomes incredibly volatile and tense. But it demands your attention every step of the way, as so much is going on, but told perfectly. Bigelow’s choice to splice archive footage into the film only exemplified the believable set that was to recreate the destruction that of property that occurred during the riots.
I believe with a film like Detroit it would have been easy to slip into the telling of one side, but I think that Bigelow managed to get the correct balance and show that the riots not only had a huge impact on the black communities in Detroit but also everyone else caught up in it, from the national guard to the local police force.
Not only this, but the nuanced movements of each character was crucial in Detroit from the shaking, stuttering hand of Aubrey, to Larry Reed’s (Algee Smith) performance to the empty Fox Theatre as the lights are shut off around him. But also the looks of terror, not only placed on the faces of the those forced to face the wall, but also the deputy to Krauss as he seemingly questions his actions during a key scene.
The tension definitely emanated through the screen, especially as the Detroit Police Department begin to essentially bully the suspects in the Algiers Motel. But this event is seen all the way through, which only helps build the tension, through the actions of Krauss and the Detroit Police Department and the effective use of set by Bigelow.
The casting of Will Poulter was interesting as one of the leads, but he was playing Krauss to perfection, as you become to loathe the character that is unveiled at the Algiers. But the rest of the casting was absolutely superb and kept me transfixed throughout the film from John Boyega’s Melvin Dismukes to Jacob Latimore’s Fred Temple. They all played their parts to perfection.
Kathryn Bigelow had this film nailed on every step of the way. I believe Detroit is going to be staying with me for a long time and for all the right reasons. It’s important to have films like this, as it’s incredibly poignant for today and suggests that we haven’t moved far from these attitudes at all.
I was honestly left stunned by this film, and it’s not often that this happens. This comes to the believability of the performances from the cast, but also how the narrative was told. It was incredibly compelling and I was gripped for the entirety of the 140-odd minute runtime. Although it was slow to get off the ground, once it started running, Detroit took me with it. It’s an incredibly harrowing tale, but one that is also incredibly important at the same time.