by Tony Medley
Runtime 143 minutes
I’m not sure about the name of this film.
It’s not really about Detroit. It’s about what happened at the Algiers
Motel in Detroit on July 25, two days after the start of the 1967 riots.
What’s the point of calling it “Detroit?”
What’s shown on the screen is not only
frightening; it is debilitating to sit through. Director Kathryn Bigelow
(from a good script by Mark Boal) has filmed it cinéma vérité style,
using hand held cameras and it is totally immersing. Maybe I took it too
seriously, but I saw it at a 10 a.m. screening and felt wiped out the
rest of the day.
The person who really makes the film pop
is Will Poulter, who plays lethiferous Philip Krauss (a fictitious name), the sociopathic
Detroit policeman who engineers the torture of the innocent people who
found themselves at the Algiers motel that night. He gives an
Oscar®-quality performance that one will not soon forget.
Others in the outstanding cast who
deserve special mention are Hannah Murray, who plays Julie, a beautiful
young woman who is subjected to all sorts of vile accusations by Krauss
but fights back, John Boyega, who plays Dismukes, a good guy security
guard who finds himself between a rock and a hard place, and Algee Smith
who plays Larry Reed, the lead singer of fledgling singing group The
Dramatics, and who had booked a room at the Algiers motel for himself
and his friend, Fred Temple (Jacob Latimore), to keep them off the
violent streets where the riot was taking place.
True, the film is long, but it never
lags, except right at the end. The cinematography (Barry Ackroyd) and
editing (William Goldenberg and Harry Yoon) are so exceptional that they
are as much characters as any of the actors.
There’s an epilogue that concludes the
film admitting that a lot of what is seen is conjecture, drawn from
interviews with many of the participants, including black residents of
the community, police, and military personnel who were involved. I don’t
know what really happened there, but this is certainly a compelling