A police raid in Detroit in 1967 results in one of the largest RACE riots in United States history. The story is centred around the Algiers Motel incident, which occurred in Detroit, Michigan on July 25, 1967, during the racially charged 12th Street Riot. It involves the death of three black men and the brutal beatings of nine other people: seven black men and two white women.
Kathryn Bigelow is no stranger to stories that present a very harsh and grinding reality that so many of us can’t even begin to properly picture in our heads.
Fifty years after the Algiers Motel incident, this intense retelling delivers nothing short of a bleak and moving look into 1967. Every situation feels completely real from the riots and looting to police violence and racial tension, all set to pack a heavy punch. Like so many great true story films, there’s also a smart use of real footage and pictures to string together certain scenes. However much you know or don’t know about the incident as well as what follows, these are all a seemingly endless chain of very thought-provoking events that I know most people will take some sort of impact by.
While some characters and events are fictionalised because of unclear facts and reports, they don’t at all seem to take anything away from the importance of what’s being portrayed. There’s a very elaborate mix of those who deserved better and those who deserved worse, all together making for the more compelling watch.
In terms of casting, there’s so much to admire. John Boyega fits in well, taking on a much needed good cop role with a very similar moral compass from what he brings to Star Wars. Will Poulter (The Revenant) and Algee Smith are also at the top of critical praise, tackling many of the most dark and fierce scenes to offer. There are several other noteworthy actors to look out for too, such as Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker, Captain America: Civil War) and Hannah Murray (Game of Thrones), all of whom carry the film so splendidly.
Never afraid to hold back on such faultlessly disturbing and gritty moments for the big screen, Bigelow has once more honoured another important moment in history. With movies like The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, you’d expect the same sort of gritty, award-winning nature to be passed along to Detroit and I can assure you she’s done just that.
DVD Releases: 21st February 2018
Rating: R16 – Contains Violence, cruelty & offensive language
Duration: 143 minutes
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Starring: John Boyega, Will Poulter, Hannah Murray, Kaitlyn Dever, Jack Reynor, Anthony Mackie, John Krasinski, Jeremy Strong
Director: Kathryn Bigelow ('Zero Dark Thirty', 'Point Break', 'The Hurt Locker')
Using a style she first adopted with The Hurt Locker (2008), director Kathryn Bigelow deployed three or four cameras at a time, keeping them in constant motion around the actors. Bigelow preferred to light the entire set to give the performers more flexibility to move around. She didn't block a scene for the camera by plotting out a series of close-ups and wide shots, instead filming everything in a few takes to keep the emotions as raw as possible. "After two or three takes, I have it," she said.
Filmed in Brockton, Massachusetts in September 2016. A set depicting 1967 Detroit was built at the site of the Liberty Tree, a sycamore planted in 1763 which marked a stop on the Underground Railroad. During the Civil War, slaves on their way north to freedom were hidden in Edward Bennett's stables during the day so they could travel under the cover of darkness.
Some scenes were filmed in Hamtramck, Michigan, a city surrounded by Detroit.
Filming is also taking place in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
John Boyega had the opportunity to meet and acquaint himself with survivor Melvin Dismukes, the real-life person he portrays in the film.
This is the third collaboration between director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal. The first two were Zero Dark Thirty (2012) and The Hurt Locker (2009). Both Bigelow and Boal won Oscars for The Hurt Locker, including Best Picture.
Algee Smith who plays Larry (Reed), a member of the 1960s band The Dramatics, wrote the song "Grow" that appears on the film soundtrack performed by both Smith and Reed.