Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
American filmmaker, Kathryn Bigelow, has been hugely influential in the recent history of cinema, specifically within the war genre, where gems like “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty” truly deserved the dozens of awards collected a bit from everywhere in the US.
“Detroit”, her tenth feature film, centers on the true events occurred in 1967 at the Algiers Motel, Detroit, Michigan, when the city was under a civil disturbance known as 12th Street riot. Following a screenplay by Mark Boal, the film portrays a different kind of war, but still a war, and one so important to remind, especially during these absurdly tense and rowdy days we’re living in today due to racial prejudice.
Larry Reed (Algee Smith) and Fred Temple (Jacob Latimore), two Motown black singers who separate from their other bandmates in the heat of the street riots, manage to find a room at the Algiers Motel, where they meet two gorgeous white girls, Julie Ann and Karen, visitors from Ohio. They are visibly relieved for having escaped the ugly warlike scenario that keeps going on out there. The streets are packed with African Americans who violently protest against the discrimination and frequent brutality of the white cops, who, spreading violence, inflame the revolt even more. The turmoil reaches such a dimension that Governor Romney and President Johnson send the Michigan Army National Army and two Airborne Divisions, respectively, to a Detroit on fire.
The two couples and three other acquaints end up trapped in the room of a war veteran after a harmless yet compromising shot with a blank handgun had set the infamous police officer Phillip Krauss and his ruthless squad on their trail.
Willing to find out who the shooter was, Krauss, whose precedent procedures showed his proneness for violence, invades the room to spread fear and death among the present in a clear abuse of power. Will Poulter gives his best performance to date, exhibiting a juvenile physiognomy that masks a heart of stone and unprincipled nature.
Minimal yet precious help comes from Melvin Dismukes (John Boyega), a private security guard who, for some reason, earned some immunity, even being African-American.
Ms. Bigelow sculpted this drama with vibrant looks and settings, capturing the essence of the late 60s and populating it with fervent confrontations and tumultuous scenarios of hate, violence, and destruction. This tenebrous depiction opposes to the happy vibes that transpire from the R&B and soul songs that compose the film’s soundtrack, which besides originals, also includes names such as Marvin Gaye, Brenda Holloway, and Martha Reeves.
Considerable buzz has been going on around this drama due to its topic and timing, and also the way it was addressed. The recreation of the facts is partly observant, partly opportunistic, but “Detroit” is as much valid as any other story, fact-based or not. For obvious reasons, it can’t be compared with Bigelow’s previous highlights, which live more from the suspense and alertness on the battlefield rather than the insult, prejudice, and humiliation factors associated with the present case.
A parallelism with the present times is inevitable, and lessons can be learned from this dark episode of the American history. With them, we should be able to improve mentalities and evolve as human beings.