(spoiler free)

Director of action classic ‘Point Break’ but also the critically acclaimed ‘The Hurt Locker’ & ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, Kathryn Bigelow, returns to the big screen with her latest project, ‘Detroit’. This film is based on the incident that occurred at the Algiers Motel during the riots in Detroit in 1976. Could this directors continued approach to these real life stories spawn a similar level of success compared to her most recent films though?

Whilst John Boyega has seemingly been the poster boy for this movie, and why not considering his increased popularity thanks to ‘Star Wars’, the film is in fact made up of an ensemble cast. It’s probably British actor Will Poulter who has the largest role, this is interesting as he’s very much the villainous figure of the story. It was engaging to see so much of the story from his perspective, resulting mainly from Poulter’s impressive performance, probably the best of his career to date. Algee Smith portrays singer Larry Reed who is the closest we get to a protagonist in the film. His performance is equally as remarkable as Poulter’s offering the complete opposite experience to these events. Despite these most memorable performers the whole cast, Boyega definitely included, all perform to a wonderfully high standard making the scenes unfolding on screen feel so realistic and believable. 

The narrative itself is hugely involved, drawing audiences in through the performances and the shocking nature of this true story. One of my favourite elements to the film though was the representation of individuals. Instead of showcasing certain groups as all bad or all good the writer and director instead choose to show that groups are made up of individuals who make decisions of their own. Therefore whilst highlighting the atrocities committed here ‘Detroit’ refuses to conclusively label groups or organisations as morally correct or incorrect. The positive and negative acts shown from individuals from each side was a mature decision and one that certainly made the film richer.

The film is broken down into three very distinctive acts and for the most part this structure is incredibly effective. The first act established the necessary context for the narrative. The second act introduces the more focused narrative. The third act deals with the aftermath and offers closure for characters and viewers. There is no doubt that the second act of the film is the most enthralling. It’s full of tension and often offers the peak of the performances. As a result when the third act arrives it’s initially hard to stay with the film due to the exhaustive viewing experience just witnessed. Whilst it’s debatable if the third act is even necessary, once you become reinvested in the story it’s a good section to the film. Other than the start of the final act and a moment or so in the first the lengthy running time is no issue, especially when the film concludes.

Therefore, Kathryn Bigelow has succeeded in bringing one of the darkest moments in recent history to the forefront of the media in a brilliantly engaging manner. She gets the most out of her incredibly talented cast whilst never letting them over-shadow the real life individuals or events. There are a few minor issues that halt the flow of the narrative however these are largely excusable considering the rest of the achievements present. ‘Detroit’ is an important movie which highlights the issues of the past but maybe most poignantly the issues of the present too.

Rating – 9/10

Question: How do you think ‘Detroit’ will perform in awards season?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)

Thanks for reading this review and please let me know what you thought about the movie! Leave a comment below or drop me a tweet over at @HCMovieReviews.

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