Monday, August 7, 2017

[Review] Detroit

Following the gritty and gut-wrenching, real life-informed films like The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, director Kathryn Bigelow continues her excellence behind the camera with this year's unflinching Detroit. It's a difficult watch, but it's also a vital watch.

The film portrays the Detroit riots of 1967, where civil unrest and police violence turned the heart of the U.S.A. into a hostile warzone. The cast is full of familiar faces, including John Boyega (The Force Awakens), Anthony Mackie (The Avengers), Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton), along with newcomer Jacob Latimore (who played the lead in this year's under-the-radar Sleight) and the lesser-known Algee Smith, who gives an impressive standout performance here.

It's intense. It's harrowing. And it's racially-charged. We witness maddening injustices, cold-blooded police brutality, and edge-of-your-seat crisis--like the film's big centerpiece - a violent, sweaty, and heart-racing (to put it lightly) raid and interrogation set in the Algiers Motel. And one of the film's most moving scenes takes place in an evacuated theatre where Algee Smith's character (a Motown artist) sings "If You Haven't Got Love" alone. And like Bigelo's past work, the film is very strong from a technical standpoint. The quick-cut editing raises the urgency and reflects the chaos, while the darty handheld camerawork (reminiscent of Paul Greengrass films) immerses us into the action.

Detroit will make you grind your teeth, and it'll leave you breathless. It's not the type of film where you'll walk out with a smile on your face, but it feels like an essential viewing with themes that unfortunately and hauntingly still ring today. Perhaps one of the film's characters says it best: "We're a long way from easy."

* 9/10 *

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