The city of Detroit is in a tough position. It was once a vast metropolis with several factories calling it home, making it a mecca for families looking for a quality and a safe security. Things changed when many of those car factories either closed or moved, turning a vast city into a ghost town. It’s still standing and has plenty of people, but it now exists as a shadow of its own empire. Politicians and companies are in the middle of getting back a state of industry, so who knows what the future holds. It holds a lot of history, both good and tragic.
In the late 1960’s, race relations were at the brink of an explosion as African-Americans were crippled by poor living conditions in cities and were being provided little help from the government. While white Americans were enjoying a better life in the suburbs, the cities continued to unofficially segregate blacks into the urban environments. This anger eventually erupted in a series of riots that provided fuel for the media on the troubling issues for African Americans. Though each city riot had their fair share of casualties and damage, the one in Detroit was said to be the worst. It has been recreated in the Kathryn Bigelow film, Detroit.
On the July 23, 1967, an unlicensed club was raided upon and shut the party down. This triggered a mob to start throwing rocks at police cars and they would later loot and set fire to various buildings. This was considered the start of the Detroit City riots. The second day is more of the same, except officer Phillip Krauss (played by Will Poulter) guns down an unarmed looter. Though he’s told he’ll be investigated on possible murder charges, he’s not taken off the force. The riots become so violent that the governor approves the National Guard and the Army to provide help.
On the third day, the Dramatics, an R&B group’s performance is canceled when the riots come close to the theater. They try to leave the city, but lead singer Larry Reed (played by Algee Smith) gets separated and makes it to the Algiers Motel, hoping things will cool down the next day.
A prank goes bad when a blank gunshot is confused for a sniper attack, causing the police to arrive quickly to find the shooter. Officer Krauss leads everyone down, including two white girls, a recent Vietnam veteran Lou, and Larry Reed for brutality-like interrogation. Though security guard Melvin Dismukes (played by John Boyega) is there to witnesses it, he watches as he tries to ensure everyone will leave alive.
Taking an entire city based riot and putting it into one film cannot be an easy task, but Kathryn Bigelow developed Detroit into a magnificent, very tense look into events that identifies a lot of problems that are not only historically significant, but could be examined in a modern subtext. I love how the story is set around the tragedy of the Algiers Motel incident, which could be seen as the heart of the darkness.
The script is great, the direction is great, the pacing is great, and the acting is all great. Every single person is the right choice for their character, especially to the big three, Will Poulter, John Boyega, and Algee Smith. Their performances had my eyes straight ahead to the screen as I was always curious to see what happens. I felt every emotion go through my body as I succumbed to the events projected, dragging me into the riots and of Detroit.
I’ll give this five Dramatic albums out of five. I can say that Detroit is a frontrunner for the Oscars in a lot of categories. Is it better then Dunkirk? Hmm…that’s hard to say as despite both movies portraying major events, they feel different, which should say a lot about the importance of film as an art. We’ll just have to wait for the end of the year to find out where it places on my scale. I can say that this is an engaging movie that completely sucks you into the madness. Detroit will continue to survive, though movies like this need to be seen to understand its darker moments, so don’t miss it.