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Review by Emma Allsopp.
A few days ago, I managed to see Kathryn Bigelow’s new film Detroit. I was hugely excited due to her previous success with the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker (2008) and Oscar-nominated Zero Dark Thirty (2012). This time Bigelow was tackling another hard-hitting topic; the 1967 Detroit riots, and specifically the police brutality that occurred at the infamous Algiers Motel. With a star-studded cast and an acclaimed director behind the project, it was set to be a promising film.
This film brings a lot to the table in terms of exploring social inequality. Its primary focus is the racism that the African Americans of Detroit suffer on a regular basis, mainly by the police. However, it also delves into misogyny and patriarchal ideals through the female characters in the film. I think it is expertly directed by Bigelow, who brings her female experience to the project and makes this a film that supports minorities everywhere.
The ensemble cast of this film were absolutely stellar, with personal stand-outs of mine being John Boyega and Will Poulter. Boyega portrays Melvin Dismukes, a security guard who was accommodating to the police for his personal safety, but ends up becoming embroiled in the tragic motel events. While he did not have many lines of dialogue, he was a pure authoritative presence onscreen very reminiscent of a young Denzel Washington. Will Poulter plays Philip Krauss, a Detroit police officer who was extremely violent and aggressive to African Americans. The gravitas that he brought to the film created half of the tense atmosphere, and had me glued to the screen. Without a doubt, Will Poulter is a talent to watch in the future.
However, I was not as impressed by the performance of Hannah Murray as Julie Ann, a Caucasian girl who is staying at the motel and becomes entangled in the events there. I was not wholly convinced by her American accent and her range often left much to be desired. This was the only cast member I was not sure of though, as everyone else was strong and well-cast. Another honourable mention would be Anthony Mackie, who I am usually not a fan of. However, he really impressed me with his performance as Greene, a veteran staying at the motel.
Overall, I really liked this film. While it didn’t make me feel happy and it didn’t entertain me, it taught me important, if horrifying facts about the past in regards to racism and misogyny. These are plagues that still affect our society, but are often brushed off by those in power as they do not directly apply to them. I would advise everyone to see this film as it depicts a shocking truth that we should all take notice of and acknowledge. Katheryn Bigelow’s direction brings this story into the here and now, and we should all thank her for it.