'Detroit' is one of the must see films of the year.

‘Detroit’ Review: An Unsettling Look At Our Past And Present

Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit is a relentlessly terrifying film that examines the power hateful ideology can have in justifying the most heinous of acts. 


Detroit takes place during the racially motivated riots that ravaged the city in the summer of 1967. The film doesn’t seek to give audiences a history lesson but does present the events that transpired at the Algiers hotel in an unfiltered manner.


What Worked

Bigelow examines how the lack of consequences profoundly impacted the events that occurred at the Algiers Hotel. While the police officers were justified in investigating where those shots came from, the slaughter that transpired was certainly horrific. Bigelow also did a great job making sure the audience saw this from both sides.

Loved seeing those scenes where officer Krauss (Will Poulter) is huddling up his fellow officers and explaining to them how these acts were justified and how they could get away with it. On the other end, seeing Larry (Algee Smith) and the group of African Americans being terrorized just because of their skin color on top of being told “they were going to die” was both unsettling but necessary to see. While these events did take place 50 years ago, it’s hard not to wonder just how much progress has been made since the events in Detroit.

John Boyega’s portrayal of security guard Mr. Dismukes was critical to understanding the dichotomy of how African Americans were treated and what they were willing to take. Dismukes initially comes off as just any old hard working African American male living in Detroit. He has two jobs, one at a factory and the other being a security guard for a local grocery store. Dismukes spends a majority of the movie trying to keep the peace between races, but it’s his appeasement that exacerbates events.

Instead of doing the right thing and calling them out for their hateful ideas, he seeks to help them by getting to the bottom of who shot at them (while some African Americans are being killed by the cops at the hotel). Boyega’s character tries to buy their loyalty by giving them some goods he turned up while searching the house for a gun. The group from the Algiers views him as a traitor to their race. Some of them refer to him as an “Uncle Tom.” Boyega’s character is torn throughout the film, and it’s only toward the end that he realizes what he should have been doing the whole time.

The most memorable performance in the movie was that of Poulter’s. His portrayal of the racist cop motivated by his beliefs was fascinating. His character showed how corrupt one person can be when given too much power. It’s terrifying how influential this type of hate can be over others. This is the kind of break out performance that critics will be discussing during the Golden Globes and maybe even the Oscars.



Detroit is a smoldering cauldron of intensity that was impeccably made, and the type of film that will crack most top ten lists at the end of the year and is certainly worth your time this weekend. Not many releases are of this caliber in August, but it appears Detriot is the exception.

Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and have been doing reviews for many years. My views on film are often heard in markets such as Atlanta, Houston, and satellite radio. My wife often tolerates my obsession for all things film related and two sons are at an age now where 'Trolls' is way cooler than dad. Follow me on twitter @mrsingleton.
'Detroit' is one of the must see films of the year. 'Detroit' Review: An Unsettling Look At Our Past And Present