The film follows the events surrounding the infamous Algiers Motel incident that occurred during the 1967 Detroit Riots. Detroit might be Kathryn Bigelow’s best film as a director to date. She manages to capture the intensity of the Algiers Motel incident. Throughout the duration of the movie, the audience doesn’t know if the main characters would survive the night. Stylistically, I would compare this movie to last year’s Don’t Breathe (a film that, coincidentally, also takes place in inner-city Detroit). I will explain more of this later in my review.
Another great aspect about this movie is its cast. Aside from John Boyega and Anthony Mackie, the cast consists of actors who aren’t big name celebrities. This manages to work in the movie’s favor as it focuses on the characters and not on the actors. Will Poulter is the standout performance of this movie. It must have been difficult to play a person who abuses his authority.
My main criticism of the movie is its focus. I felt that the film’s epilogue was too long. The film’s third act dragged on for quite a bit and could have been trimmed by at least ten minutes. I may be nitpicking here, but I felt that the movie should have been called Algiers instead of Detroit. Yes, the real-life Algiers Motel incident took place within the Detroit riots of 1967, but this movie focused mainly on the incident itself.
I don’t know if the following opinion is considered “controversial” or not, but here it goes: Detroit might be the best horror movie of the year. Instead of some masked serial killer or some demonic entity being the focus of the film, the film deals with a real-life horror story. When Oscar season comes around, however, this movie would most likely garner nominations thanks to the involvement of Kathryn Bigelow. As mentioned by James Rolfe in his Monster Madness review of Exorcist II: The Heretic: “With horror movies, [Oscar nominations] doesn’t happen often. Slumdog Millionaire, No Country for Old Men, The Hurt Locker. Put some zombies or vampires in those movies and see how many awards they get.”
Overall, this is an intense movie about a real-life incident that went down during the 1967 Detroit riots. While the movie has its flaws, it manages to capture the life-and-death situation of the Algiers Motel incident. It is a film that will cause a dialogue with its audience.