Remember back in 1991 when director Kathryn Bigelow first made a name for herself with Point Break starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze? A film all to do with an FBI agent tasked with infiltrating a group of bank robbing surfers wearing the masks of ex-presidents. It’s safe to say that no one could have anticipated her going onto make such serious and politically driven films as The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty and now Detroit. But I guess everyone has to start somewhere, even a two time Oscar winner like her.
First off I feel as though I should warn you that while the film may be titled “Detroit” and describes itself as being based on true events from the Detroit riots of 67, to be more specific the film actually focuses on one particular incident which occurred within the Algiers Hotel. Although your made aware of the chaos ensuing outside, the majority of this film’s run time takes place within the hotel, so perhaps The Algiers Hotel would have been a more fitting title, but Detroit is what we’ve got.
Kathryn Bigelow’s direction is satisfactory for the most part, although she never really seizes the moment to do anything all that interesting visually. The opening to Detroit provides us with something of a montage for the riots taking place and this whole portion of the movie is made to look like handheld footage only with proper filmmaking cameras. This effect was jarring to say the least, even when the camera was set down to focus on someone or something, the frame still bobbed from side to side. With a run time of something like two hours and twenty three minutes, I found myself praying that this visual style wasn’t in for the long run and thankfully it wasn’t.
To be brutally honest the entire opening sequence just came off as being completely and utterly rushed. But as I’ve already said Detroit is a long one, so they obviously felt it was necessary to include that sequence in the film, but it did seem as though they couldn’t wait to get to what really mattered, the story of what went down at The Algiers Hotel during those terrible riots of 67. While Kathryn Bigelow’s direction might not be anything that special this time around, it’s important to note that Detroit isn’t exactly the kind of film that sets out to boast of its visual prowess. Instead Detroit concerns itself with two things, one being the performances and the other being that the story is told carefully and respectfully.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens may have put John Boyega’s name on the map, but here we get to see that he definitely hasn’t taken that opportunity for granted. Boyega is fantastic, as is Will Poulter as this viciously racist patrolman. I’ll admit that when I first heard about the type of character that Poulter was going to portray in this movie, I more than had my doubts. But while he may look like a young boy in a man’s uniform, when it comes to the standard of his delivery and performance he just knocks it out of the park. Detroit is a film which pulls no punches, perhaps not the type of film you could see yourself watching again and again, but nevertheless it’s not to be missed! 7.5/10