ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Detroit (2017) Film Review

Updated on September 27, 2017
Roshan Chandy profile image

Roshan is an aspiring writer, film/TV buff, and 'Game of Thrones' fanatic!

A pulsating political commentary and 2017’s scariest horror film.

Moving into the month of September and the film calendar’s much-maligned “award’s season” begins.

Inevitably there will be a catalogue of “OSCAR-bait movies”. Films tailor-made by producers and studios with the sole intent of luring pompous Academy Award voters into securing them gold-tinted nominations.

Between now and February, expect at least one biopic, historical drama and weepy sob story to sweep your way via cinemas.

For better or for worse, many of these mainstream movies will be clogged by syrupy treacle, rampant emotional manipulation and overwrought melodrama shouted by the showiest performers.

Kathryn Bigelow’s ‘Detroit’ undoubtedly wears the hallmarks of a typically awards-worthy drama.

Set over the course of a quiet Sunday in July, it documents the 1967 Detroit Riot while serving as a commemoration of the event’s 50th Anniversary.

It was on this quiet Sunday – July 12th, 1967 specifically – that Detroit Police staged a brutish raid upon an unlicensed club celebrating returning black veterans. During widespread arrests of suspects, a mob formed before quickly descending into violent lootings, rock throwing and arsons.

As racially motivated unrest sweeps the city, Officers concentrate their efforts towards an old motel after mistaking a prank pistol shot for a sniper attack.

Here a group of young black R&B artists and two white hookers find themselves lined up against a wall; brutally interrogated into fessing up over the identity of the so-called shooter.

Overseeing this quite obviously unjust operation is Will Poulter’s skin-crawling, high-eyebrowed turn an anguished, bitterly racist white cop while John Boyega channels a young Denzel Washington as a black private security guard-turned-copper who begins to realise the injustice at hand…

The film opens intensely with a harrowing montage offering a nail-biting overview across the history of racism in the USA. Such a sequence seismically swoops between live-action and archive footage; delivering much the same docudrama grit we have come to expect from the director of ‘The Hurt Locker’ (2009) and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ (2012).

As with those previous films, Bigelow’s trademark blend of fact and fiction melds itself meticulously down to the streets of 60s Detroit; ramming every inch of anarchy, tear gas and shrapnel straight into the face of viewers as Barry Ackroyd’s shaky cam-ridden cinematography throws them dangerously close to the chaos. These ultra-realistic early scenes undoubtedly mirror HBO’s ‘The Wire’ (2002-2008) and the terrific recent race documentary ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ (2017) (for which ‘Detroit’ makes a thrilling companion piece!).

For a film rooted in history and social politics, however, ‘Detroit’s highest merits lie in its accessibility. Those expecting the film to adhere strictly to awards-laden formula will be vastly surprised.

Rather than running through with early indications of a race-based riots drama, Director Bigelow makes drastic shifts in tone.

By moving attention away from the outdoors and inside a motel populated by pranking youths, she chooses a more personal approach.

As Police round up suspects and toy with their minds into confessing a crime they did not commit, the film takes the form of a twisted Russian Roulette game; very broadly resembling a grungy home invasion horror flick where officers are the offenders and the film’s African American youths are the victims.

Bigelow’s decision to hone in on one area of the event for the film’s duration has been divisive. Inevitably, she risks sugarcoating the wider issue at heart, while reverting to a populist genre such as horror could easily slip into sensationalism.

What is impressive therefore is the manner in which Bigelow holds onto the subject matter. Like the Troubles drama ‘In the Name of the Father’ (1993), ‘Detroit’ channels the conviction of Police brutality into the mainstream.

Its “horror” trappings manifest themselves as a blood-pumping metaphor for a callous form of law enforcement of which’s institutional racism has ravaged through society for decades. Racism which has never felt more contemporary in pressing parallels with the 2011 England Riots and the recent Charlottesville White Nationalist Rally.

With both ‘Detroit’ and Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ (2017), the year may have found two of its first viable OSCAR contenders. For once, however, a Best Picture win wouldn’t be a wasted one

4 stars for Detroit (2017)

© 2017 Roshan Chandy


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)