Detroit review: A sickening retelling of a chapter of US history that resonates all too clearly today

James Luxford

Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow is back with her first film since 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty. Detroit is a dramatisation of an incident in 1967 where, during a riot in the city, a group of policemen and National Guard members interrogate and torture the guests of The Algiers Motel.

Bigelow’s greatest strength as a director is her ability to draw the viewer’s attention to the future as well as the past, and there’s a heavy poignancy about the timing of this film’s release, with events in Charlottesville still fresh in the mind.

The one thing Detroit never does, however, is look away. Carrying on the unrelenting realism of her previous two films, the sadism displayed is nothing short of horrific. It may be too much for many, but Bigelow deserves plaudits for never flinching from her message.

Regular collaborator Mark Boal, who wrote the screenplay, at times struggles to give the characters enough humanity, keeping their rationalisations at arm’s length.

Despite this there are still some incredible performances; Will Poulter is nightmarish as racist policeman Philip Krauss, the lightning rod through which much of the horror is conducted. Just as interesting is John Boyega caught in the middle as a local security guard.

Social commentary mixes with a kind of historical horror to make Detroit a film that will divide audiences. Whatever your opinion, you’ll be thinking about it for a long time to come.

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