Movie Review 'Detroit'

John Thomas, Movie Critic

“This is your captain speaking. We are beginning our final descent to Detroit Metropolitan Airport. We  have been informed that the airport is secure and that there is ground transportation available into downtown Detroit - at the present time anyway.”  I immediately looked out my window only to see a darkened city with scattered fires and some smoke. It was Tuesday, July 25, 1967, the third day of the most destructive riots in the history of America.

Along with some of the other passengers, I was taken by bus through deserted streets to my almost abandoned hotel in the center of town. It was suggested by reception that we not leave the hotel until the next morning. This is exactly what I did, I went straight to bed and left town early the next day.

From my brief one night stay in Detroit, did I have any idea of the riots taking place elsewhere in the city? Absolutely not. Later I read about them in newspapers, but did I need to revisit the horror of that same story decades later? Absolutely not. Did I see the film Detroit? Absolutely, because Ms. Bigelow is a gifted director who takes the grimmest of stories (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) and turns them into compassionate inspiring films. I also wanted to discover the truth about what took place.

The evening of the 23rd began pleasantly enough for the guests of the Blind Pig, an after-hours, unlicensed club in the west side of the city. Drinking, gambling, dancing and partying were taking place inside the “Pig”until the police arrived to arrest everyone - that’s when the trouble started. At a concert hall nearby an excited group of four young musicians were in the wings of the theater eager to make their long-awaited debut in front of a big audience. They were anxiously awaiting three famous female Motown singers to finish their number so they could take to the stage.

Moments later the police arrived to clear the theater and have everyone return home - unlike the Pig, where everyone was taken to jail. The boys never made their big debut but instead reluctantly retreated to the Algiers Motel for the night. That is when their trouble and the horrendous brutality of this dark period in American history began. Did Ms. Bigelow really need 143 minutes to tell the story of the visceral acts in Detroit that lead to 43 deaths, 1,189 injuries and 7,200 arrests? Without question, yes. As disagreeable and uncomfortable as these 143 minutes are for the viewer, just think of what those five days of rioting must have been for the residents of Detroit!

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, this “see” movie runs 143 minutes.


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