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Detroit - Film Review

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by Jade Jackson (subscribe)
Author of Drunk Love Sober Death and Compass. I'm also a podcaster. Find all my work here >>
Published November 7th 2017
Itís Been Fifty Years, Yet Little Has Changed
Detroit Race Riots 1967, Detroit Movie, Kathryn Bigelow, Police Brutality
Aftermath of the riots the movie is based upon. Image courtesy of

Detroit is the latest feature film from Academy Award-winning Director, Kathryn Bigelow, which stars John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker, Captain America: Civil War), and Will Poulter (The Revenant, We're The Millers, Wild Bill).

The movie is based on historical records and true events that transpired following a mass arrest of African American military personnel after the raid of an illegal bar; ultimately leading to three days of rioting and civil unrest in the predominately black neighbourhood of Victoria Park, in Detroit, Michigan.

During the turmoil, state police and military, hearing loud bangs were convinced they were under fire from a sniper and a couple of hot-headed, racist police officers rounded up everyone who was staying in a nearby hotel (who also happened to be predominantly black men), under the guise the sniper was amongst them; terrorising them for hours, despite the lack of any evidence of a weapon in the building.

Detroit Race Riots 1967, Detroit Movie, police brutality, Kathryn Bigelow
An original photo from the 1967 riots. Image courtesy of

Detroit is filmed like a cross between a documentary - with its use of archival footage and original black-and-white photographs and a point-of-view drama, shot with hand-held cameras (so don't sit too close to the screen), which puts the viewer on the streets, dodging bullets, running from police patrols as the sweat and blood of innocent African Americans spills all around. Despite the grainy historical footage, the rest of the movie is filmed with enough grit so it blends in.

Will Poulter's performance as the baby-faced racist cop, Krauss, is a long way from his comedic role in We're The Millers but firmly places him in line as an Oscar potential. Detroit also stars Hannah Murray (Game of Thrones) and Kaitlyn Dever (Short Term 12) as white girls Julie and Karen, caught up with the drama and treated with disdain for associating with African Americans.

Detroit Movie, Kathryn Bigelow, Detroit Movie Review
A scene from Detroit, a film by Kathryn Bigelow. Image courtesy of

What Detroit attempts to do, is to make anyone watching it, feel what it's like to be ostracised for the colour of your skin. In one scene, Carl (Jason Mitchell, Straight outta Compton ) demonstrates to Julie and Karen, a black guy, facing police brutality every day; reminding the viewer that potentially getting shot, at any time, for no reason, is a real possibility for many African American men.

A fear that is substantiated in recent times by the bashing of Rodney King in 1991 in Los-Angeles and the shooting of Michael Brown by Police in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, despite the progress in equality made in recent years.

Unlike other films tackling racism, (Romper Stomper, Mississippi Burning, Gran Torino) having two white girls treated virtually the same as the line-up of black men (which actually happened) will make any white person gain an understanding of what it feels to be on the receiving end of racism and to question the absurdity of hatred towards someone, because of where they were born or the colour of their skin.

Will Poulter, Anthony Mackie, Detroit Movie, Kathryn Bigelow, Detroit Movie Review
Will Poulter and Anthony Mackie in a scene from Detroit. A film by Kathryn Bigelow. Image courtesy of

Detroit made me feel dirty and ashamed to be white. It made me feel angry that humans can be so hurtful, and was excruciatingly painful to watch, not because it's a bad movie, but knowing violence towards unarmed minorities by police in the USA is still happening.

Though some may feel like this is the kind of movie that perhaps could have been made by someone like Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing) or John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood), Kathryn Bigelow has a habit of breaking Hollywood taboos and making films, previously dominated by men, usually with Oscar-winning results like The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty.

Detroit is long, at 2 hours and 43 minutes and sure it could have been edited more but the intensity of long, violent, and dramatic scenes means you can't help but feel some of the trauma the victims experienced, along with their families. It's something that will stick with you, long after the movie has ended.

It's not all bloody violence though as the story also showcases the rise of real-life Motown singers 'The Dramatics' who were inadvertently caught up in the melee; ensuring it features a stellar soundtrack of Motown hits.

[B]Detroit is somewhat disturbing to watch, because racism is still occurring, which is why it should be viewed by everyone, to ensure real change happens and so this movie isn't still relevant in another fifty years time.[/B]

Detroit opens in selected cinemas (including Dendy and Palace) this Thursday 9th November and you can view the trailer to Detroit below:

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Why? Incredible true-story,
When: Detroit opens on Thursday 9th November at selected cinemas.
Where: At your local cinema
Cost: From $16
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