Detroit: Film Review

Detroit tells an important story about police brutality against African-Americans in the 1960s and shares a hard-hitting and poignant message that things still haven’t changed today. It made me very angry and left me reeling about the injustice of it all for hours afterwards.

Detroit is set against the 1967 riots between the African-Americans and law enforcement which became so bad Michigan State Police and the National Guard were drafted in. The film focuses on a particular incident inside the Algiers motel, when local officers lead by Philip Krauss (Will Poulter) descend upon it looking for a gun and terrorise the African-American occupants – including Greene (Anthony Mackie), Larry (Algee Smith) and Fred (Jacob Latimore) – and two Caucasian girls Julie Ann and Karen (Hannah Murray and Kaitlyn Dever). But the time the night is over, three will be dead.

I had to Google the character names for all of these because none of them are anything more than stock characters and while the incident is horrifying and hard-hitting – I genuinely didn’t breathe properly during it – you don’t know who these people are and cannot invest in them fully. The most fleshed-out character was Larry, who has hopes of a singing career and was in the wrong place at the wrong time with his pal, and Melvin Dismukes (John Boyega) an African-American security guard caught up in the drama. It seemed like he would be able to help them in his position of authority but he becomes this passive onlooker. Krauss is such a sadistic racist that I wanted to punch him in the face but there is no depth to him beyond that stereotype. Despite this, the actors are very good, with Poulter particularly standing out.

The motel horror is traumatic, stressful and deeply uncomfortable – and it doesn’t stop there. We move into the courtroom proceedings over the deaths and abuse but we already know Krauss, Demens (Jack Reynor) and Flynn (Ben O’Toole) will walk free because it happens all the time still today. The whole thing is maddening and heavy-going and I felt like I needed to let out a long breath afterwards as if I’d been holding it in. I just didn’t know what to say except ‘bloody hell, that was intense’.

It is an ordeal, very heavy-going and not a pleasant watch so I’m not surprised it hasn’t done amazingly well at the U.S. box office, but it is very powerful and delivers its message about police brutality with a punch. You can’t shake it off straight away, it sticks with you, so in that regard it is a success.

In cinemas Friday 25th August 

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