Set during the race riots in Detroit 1967, this searingly powerful film shows us what started the riots, before focusing in on the events at The Algiers Motel that left 3 people dead and the impact they had on the lives of those involved.
Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal are on quite a hot streak right now. The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty and now Detroit. Films synonymous with the words “powerful” and “gripping”. Films full of stunning performances that absolutely must be watched.
Opening with an excellent animated sequence explaining racial migrations and tensions in America leading up to the 1967 riots, we then see the raid that acted as the spark to the riots. The film expertly blends archive footage of the real events to give us the scale of the rioting and how long it has been happening for before focusing in on a group of characters who will find themselves at the Algiers motel. The police officers, security guards, national guards and innocent bystanders all get scenes to establish their motives and feelings towards the events unfolding. Once this has happened Bigelow puts us straight into the pressure cooker of the Motel. Tension builds to an almost impossible level and you will be astonished that human cruelty can be as deep-seated and racism as institutionalised as it was only 50 years ago. Most importantly though, this film does not just stop when morning comes. We get to see the impact of those events on people’s lives and what punishments were meted out to those responsible.
Acting performances are universally excellent. John Boyega is a security guard trying to calm things down, Anthony Mackie a veteran returning from one war zone to another, Will Poulter the racist cop who instigates the violence. But standing out from the crowd is Algee Smith as a singer, terrorised by the events to the point that he would never be the same.
A stunningly powerful film that should be a warning about police brutality that we see in the news today.