"Detroit" Movie Review

Updated on January 3, 2020
popcollin profile image

Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).

Detroit | Source

Over the past 15 years, Kathryn Bigelow has directed precisely two feature films. 2008’s The Hurt Locker won the Oscar for Best Picture (along with five other Academy Awards), and 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty was nominated for five and won one (in arguably the most crowded Oscars field in years).

She may not be the most prolific of directors, but when she does decide to get to work, she’s among the best there is.

Her latest is Detroit, which chronicles the city’s July 1967 riot and more specifically the bloody aftermath at the Algiers Motel. And though it doesn’t rise to the level of either of the aforementioned films, it’s still a raw, riveting, and frankly horrific portrait of racism and terror. Which, of course, makes it especially timely.

The focus of the film is Larry Reed (Algee Smith), an up and coming Motown singer with his group The Dramatics. Two nights after a city-wide riot breaks out, Reed and friend Fred Temple have stopped off at the Algiers when hours later the police raid it, trying to track down a sniper believed to be inside. The Detroit Police, State Police, and National Guard all convened on the scene, but it was officer Philip Krauss (Will Poulter) who took command. A composite character, he is depicted as the ringleader—a racist, violent cop who doesn’t need an excuse to execute whomever he sees fit.

After the raid, Krauss and two fellow officers line up several black men and two white women in the hallway and start intimidating and then terrifying each of them, including Reed and Temple. Condensed into an hour-long segment that makes up the focus of the movie, the standoff is presented as a horrifying night of bigotry, intolerance, and injustice that left three young black men dead.

Screenwriter Mark Boal, who also wrote The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, has been accused of not only exploiting the victims but turning the events into fodder for an outright horror film. The unfortunate truth is that what is presented on screen, by most accounts, is a largely accurate portrayal of the tragedy. Not only did Boal interview several real-life counterparts of the characters portrayed in the film, but Juli Hysell—one of the women held by police—was on the movie’s set every day throughout production. And security guard Melvin Dismukes, played by John Boyega, avers the film is 99.5% accurate.

Bigelow’s excellent use of hand-held cameras and in-your-face cinematography transport the audience directly into the heart of the events, giving the film an immediacy and intimacy that ramps up the suspense even more. Detroit would be terrifying enough if it was fictional, but the fact that it was a real moment in American history makes it even scarier, and both Boal and Bigelow understand that, wisely letting the moments unfold as they happened.

It’s only when the depiction of the Algiers events concludes and the movie progresses into aftermath-phase, which includes the trial of the police officers and an odd, head-scratcher of a cameo by John Krasinski, that Detroit loses some steam. Boal might have been better served to conclude his screenplay at the end of the incident itself instead of letting the story peter out, but even that can’t erase the impact the happenings of that July night in 1967 has on the audience.

Detroit is a powerful re-telling of a lesser-known—but not less important—dark chapter of American history, and Bigelow gives it the respect and attention it deserves. It’s a story that needs to be told and understood and held up for all to see.


4/5 stars

'Detroit' trailer


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)