Detroit is not for the faint of heart.
Based on events from 1967, Detroit is a warzone between African-Americans and the police. The film begins with a hearty welcome-home party for returning soldier Carl Greene (Anthony Mackie) at the Economy Printing club. But the police immediately disrupt the festivities and evacuate the partygoers to the streets for not having a liquor license.
Bystanders, who see the incident, start riots–smashing store windows with rocks and chucking Molotov cocktails in all directions. While patrolling the streets, Officer Krauss (Will Poulter) spots Leon (Tyler James Williams) with groceries. Krauss thinks he robbed the grocery store and pursues him on foot. He shoots Leon twice. After barely jumping a fence, Leon rolls under a car whimpering for his wife as he loses a stream of blood a minute.
The riots get so bad that the National Guard arrives to patrol the streets too. Krauss is scolded for shooting Leon by a detective, but walks out without facing his homicide charges. Dismukes (John Boyega) is a security guard for a local grocery store. He tries to save African-Americans from getting punished by white officers, but is seen by them as an Uncle Tom.
It isn’t long before things escalate at the Algiers Motel after the National Guard believes a sniper shot at them from the above. Krauss and his police unit arrive and conduct an interrogation from hell on Black men and two white women. The “suspects” have nothing but fear and prayer in their hearts as the interrogation persists.
As I said, Detroit is not for the faint of heart. It exceeds the intensity of other Black historical movies like Hidden Figures, Red Tails, and Malcolm X. This film reaches the intensity of 1977’s Roots. Like Roots, African-Americans in Detroit are pounded to a bloody pulp by white supremacy.
Instead of sheets, this white supremacy wears a gold badge, tarnishing the reputation of a service trained to serve and protect all people. Instead of lashing Blacks with whips and chopping off their feet with axes, these officers are beating Blacks with their clubs and fists. Then the officers cleverly plant weapons on Blacks to make it look like the officers had probable cause.
As tragic as the events in this movie are, it’s history. And history has a way of repeating itself. Look at the cases of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and many more young Black men in America. Detroit magnified the terrible events of 1967 and today’s tragedies.
Detroit was a film that moved and frustrated me. The interrogation was a situation that shouldn’t have happened. After watching and pondering this film, I truly understood the sacrifices Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and all of our other Black ancestors made so future generations could have a chance to succeed and thrive in this world. If it wasn’t for them, where would our people be?
Although, it’ll be a while before I see Detroit again, it’s a treasure. It’s a powerful film for people of all colors to watch and discuss with each other.
Studio: Annapurna Pictures (2 hr. 23 min)
Cast: Jon Boyega, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore, Tyler James Williams, Jason Mitchell, Anthony Mackie, Nathan Davis Jr., Will Poulter
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Story: Animosity between African-Americans and the police in 1967 Detroit escalate when officers interrogate visitors at the Algiers Motel.
Final Score: B+