City’s dis­grace re­called

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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