Rated R, 143 minutes
The stirring, superbly-acted new drama "Detroit" details true events stemming from civil unrest in Detroit 50 years ago. From the Oscar-winning team behind "The Hurt Locker" and "Zero Dark Thirty," this racially-charged story is one of the year's best film and one of the year's must-see films, even if it goes on a tad too long.
A police raid in Detroit in 1967 results in a days long riot. During this time, the Algiers Motel incident occurred during the racially charged 12th Street Riot. It involves the death of three black men and the beatings of nine other people: seven black men and two white women.
The film stars John Boyega of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" a black security guard who is witness to the events, Will Poulter ("We're the Millers") as a racist cop leading the charge against some innocent African-American Detroit citizens, "The Hurt Locker's" Anthony Mackie as one of those who suffered abuse, and "The Office's" John Kraskinki as the lawyer who comes to the aid of the policemen accused of the brutality.
"Detroit" is directed by Academy Award-winner Kathryn Bigelow of "The Hurt Locker" and "Zero Dark Thirty" and written by her go-to writer, Oscar-winner Mark Boal (who wrote both of those films), and the film is a powerful, tense look at racial unrest and police brutality in the city 50 years ago, yet is as relevant today as it was then. It's also a brutal, difficult watch, but masterfully and choreographed by Bigelow, and some archival footage and photographs are included to give it an authentic look, though it evokes the style, look and feel of the era on its own without them.
"Detroit" brims with intensity, but there are a couple of flaws worth mentioning. The cast is all excellent, especially Boyega, whose quiet, reserved intensity grounds the film well, while newcomers Algee Smith and Jacob Latimore (of the recent "Sleight") provide some sturdy nuance and heartbreak as two others who suffered at the hands of the police during the incident. An interesting casting note is British actor Poulter as the chief abuser, and while he is also solid, he seems too young for the part.
"Detroit," as intense as it is, is still about 15 minutes too long, and Bigelow could've gained even more resonance by ending it earlier, with the courtroom scenes in the last act seem hasty and unnecessary. Even with that, she does a masterful job with one of the year's most stirring and pertinent films, given the still unstable climate in many urban areas today. I'm hoping that the worthy, satisfying "Detroit" is not lost when it comes to awards consideration this year.