Detroit is directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starrs a predominantly African American cast with the lights of John Boyega, Anthony Mackie and Jason Mitchell. This is fitting because this film recounts the 1967 Detroit riots, specifically the tragic events that unfolded in the Algiers Hotel.
It is safe to say that this was not an easy watch, but it was an excellent display of documentary style filmmaking. This is the second time that Bigelow has excelled in this genre, the first being for The Hurt Locker. What I love about Detroit is that it paints a complete portrait out of an incomplete canvas. The movie explicitly mentions that certain details were left out of the police reports covering what happened at the Algiers hotel. However these details were filled in through information gathered from individuals that were either present at the scene, or those who were familiar about what happened that night. The end result is a cohesive timeline of events that very clearly singles out the victims of this event from the perpetrators.
I feel Detroit deserves more credit than it already has. The themes of police brutality, racism and injustice are still ever so present in our society today. Detroit is also structured in a very unique manner. It opens up with a big picture of race riots in and around Detroit, and then hones in on the events at Algiers Hotel. After this, the film shifts its focus to discussing the emotional impact that these events had on one of the individuals present. I wasn’t always the biggest fan of this structure because it felt to me that the movie was jumping from one storyline to another without any clear focus. However I have to give some credit to the director for managing to create a cohesive timeline out of these convoluted set of events.
50 out of the film’s 150 minute runtime were spent in the Algiers hotel. These were by far the best moments due to the claustrophobia created by these characters being crammed and unjustly interrogated in a narrow hallway in the hotel. In a weird sense, these events made me think about what I would and how I would react if I were placed in such unfortunate circumstances. Everything after the Algiers hotel scene became slightly less interesting primarily because I knew what to expect. There was also too much emphasis placed on the psychological impact that these events had on one particular character. Bigelow should have instead spent this time focusing on the consequences this event had on the Detroit riots as a whole, and how these riots came to a conclusion.
Overall though Detroit is a pretty well made film. It perfectly captures the horror and injustice present during these events through documentary style filmmaking. All the performances were also serviceable and there were a few important takeaway messages that are still relevant to our lives today. Where Detroit falls short is its structure. Everything shown after the events at the Algiers hotel became slightly less interesting and could been done differently.