Kathryn Bigelow knows how to make a good non-fiction thriller. That is a simple fact. With Zero Dark Thirty she expertly told the story of the assassination of Bin Laden. In The Hurt Locker she explored the lives of bomb disposal teams in the Middle East and showcased Bigelow at the peak of her powers. With Detroit, she has once again crafted a thrilling and gripping film, based on a true story. Detroit specifically looks at the murder of three black men at the Algiers Hotel and the effect it had on the civil rights movement in America.
Detroit has a conventional three act structure in many ways. Its very easy to see where one begins and ends. The first act allows us to connect with the main cast and understand what drives them. But then the second act comes along and that’s when everything takes off. You barely breathe for the entire act, with the intensity rivaling that of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. It’s all kicked off by Carl (Jason Mitchell) who shoots off a toy gun at the police, with the police thinking that it’s a sniper. They storm the building and quickly round up everyone in the house, violently pushing them against the wall. Everyone in the house is African-American, besides two white women who are played by Kaitlyn Dever and Hannah Murray.
In the confusion one of them is shot by Phillip Kraus (Will Poulter), a police officer who had recently been charged with murder of another black man. Just in the lead up you can see there are going to be problems with Phillip. Poulter does a brilliant job portraying a character that is there for you to hate, almost Mark Fuhrman like. He’s one of the most repugnant people I’ve seen on the screen this year and he should be seriously considered in the Best Supporting Actor category at the end of the year.
Other actors that shine throughout include John Boyega, Jacob Latimore and Algee Smith. Smith, who plays Larry Reed, one of the characters we’re with most, brings a certain innocence to the role that was needed and has the voice of an angel. Boyega, already showing a consistency in his acting, is calm and collected. He is a man trying to deal with the horrific events that transpire in the best way possible. Anthony Mackie also does a stand up job as former army man Greene.
When first reading up on the events that transpired at the Algiers Hotel I was shocked. It is crazy to think that all this happened just fifty years ago. When Bigelow and Boal announced they were teaming up to make Detroit I was worried. It seems odd that two white people would tackle a monumentally important moment in African-American history.
But after seeing the movie those worries were completely misplaced. Boal has crafted another script that is meticulously researched and has enough imagination to keep you on the edge of your seat for 140 minutes. Bigelow adds another fantastically directed film to her resume. Yes, the final act didn’t live up to second act but that was implausible, considering the second act was phenomenal. Detroit is definitely bittersweet as it shows there is still so much more to be done in the fight for equality in the States. But it also shows we’re definitely making progress. Detroit is a fitting ending to Bigelow’s trilogy of true thrillers, and it might just eclipse both of them.