City’s disgrace recalled
then, post-Millennium, Bigelow turned to realistic war movies, winning her ground-breaking gong before being nominated again for the ‘‘Hunt for Bin Laden’’ drama Zero Dark Thirty.
It comes as almost no surprise, then, that this anomaly in Hollywood’s power structure picked her next major project from the true crime files of 1967’s Detroit riots – an event that brought decades of simmering racial tensions to the boil.
While the riot was triggered by a police raid on an unlicensed AfricanAmerican after-hours club (which is dramatised to provide context) and the ramifications of the three-day uprising were vast, Bigelow’s film (written by regular collaborator Mark Boal) zooms in on the Algiers Motel incident, in which white law enforcers brutally interrogated black youths about an alleged shooting.
This immerses us in one excruciatingly tense situation which renders the film’s title somewhat misleading, but nonetheless proves a wise move in provoking audience outrage.
Central to the story’s success is its casting of a curiously un-American bunch of young actors whose chops are impressively assured: Brit Will Poulter plays the white cop who says ruefully ‘‘We need to stop failing these people’’, before shooting a looter in the back, while John Boyega (the newest, greatest thing in Star Wars the image of a young Denzel Washington) and Irishman Jack Reynor get reluctantly caught up in the corruption.
With the exception of Avenger Anthony Mackie, most of the cast are unknowns whose anonymity lends credibility to the shaky-cam reality of the scenarios. Without exception, every performance is compelling.
Bigelow juxtaposes discernible archive footage with the gripping dramatisations which are shot to evoke a documentary, and although the focus on personal stories is less successful in its impact, the overall tale is one of injustice and disgrace.
Far from being the biopic of a city, Detroit is a dark chapter in its history. – Sarah Watt and
Will Poulter and Anthony Mackie star in Detroit.