Film Review – Detroit (2017) ** 1/2

Title – Detroit (2017)

Director – Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)

Cast – John Boyega, Will Poulter, Jack Reynor, Jacob Latimore, Kaitlyn Dever, Hannah Murray, Anthony Mackie

Plot – During the Detroit race riots of 1967, a group of predominantly black locals are held inside the Algiers Motel under the forceful conduct of police offer Krauss (Poulter) and his comrades who are determined to convict one of the guests as a criminal.

“I’m just gonna assume you’re all criminals”

Review by Eddie on 25/06/2018

Out of all the film’s that were largely ignored over the recent awards period rush of late last year and early this year, Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty follow-up Detroit is one name that stands out above the rest as perhaps the most curiously overlooked of the lot.

Based on a true story, featuring an up and coming cast of recognisable faces and touching on hot-topic issues that remain prevalent and in the public conscious of America to this day, Detroit had all the hallmarks of a critical darling and awards season contender that instead faced a rather bleak box-office and audience reception despite many critics hailing Bigelow’s realistic and confronting direction as some of last year’s best filmmaking.

There’s certainly no faulting Bigelow’s directional style that she harnessed with The Hurt Locker and established further with Zero Dark Thirty, as Detroit well and truly feels like a documentary as the talented director melds together archival like footage of the Detroit race riots of 1967 and her narrative take on a particularly shocking incident involving a collection of Detroit police officers and their treatment of a group of predominately black locals but there’s something hugely amiss in Bigelow’s scope and decision making.

Firstly, Detroit is far too long at 140 minutes plus and while the film’s opening half is strong and involving, an extended hotel segment that anchors the whole film is repetitive to the point of infuriation while the film’s final 30 or so minutes is hugely misguided and uninvolving making Detroit feel far too often like a chore to sit through.

The other key element to Detroit’s disappointment is in its lack of audience involvement with the characters within Bigelow’s feature.

There’s fine work by performers like John Boyega, Will Poulter and Jack Reynor but there’s nothing tying us to these characters emotionally despite the trauma and experiences they are going through and while Poulter makes a mark as the detestable racist cop Krauss, all other performers feel like passengers to a narrative that is saying a lot, of which much is important to say, but delivering it in a heavy handed and increasingly uninvolving fashion as Detroit’s promising and confronting beginning gets lost in its repetitive nature and overdrawn nature.

Final Say –

There’s some great moments within Detroit and there’s little doubt that Bigelow’s particular style of filmmaking is in a league of its own when it clicks but with a failure to create an emotional core and with a an unnecessarily long and repetitive approach to one particular event, Detroit peters out too a mere flicker, instead of lighting a burning flame.

2 ½ church choirs out of 5

2 responses to “Film Review – Detroit (2017) ** 1/2

  1. I couldn’t disagree more! I was riveted the entire time and didn’t even notice how long the movie was. I feel like it didn’t do better at the box office because of lack of advertising, and frankly it’s too confrontational for the average moviegoer. I thought the cast was incredible. Just nonstop tension from beginning to end.

    • There were a lot of moments where I was right on board but I can see why this one didn’t totally click with everyone, some critics included. Bigalow can craft tension like few other directors can but with this one I think she got a portion of this film wrong.

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