So it’s been a while since I’ve done a trailer review and I have been on the lookout for one that I’d actually want to talk about in detail. Today I managed to come across a trailer than not only had me intrigued but set the movie it was advertising up as an instant awards contender. No, it isn’t ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’, it’s Kathryn Bigalow’s much anticipated ‘Detroit’ which portrays the infamous 1967 Detroit riots.
It has been a long five years since Bigalow directed a feature film, with her last effort being the phenomenal ‘Zero dark Thirty’ a film that was preceded by Bigalow’s ‘The Hurt Locker’ which earned her an Academy Award for Best Director, making her the first woman to ever earn the award. It was also a surprise win as it beat the favourite for that year’s award James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ which is very good because frankly who cares about ‘Avatar’?
The point is I was excited to see what Bigalow would be helming next, regardless of the subject matter. But the fact that it is a drama that promises to be as visceral, gripping and socially relevant as this is something that could be very special. ‘Detroit’ looks to be a movie that will play to Bigalow’s strengths as a director while also letting her explore new ground. Just from these short clips alone we get a sense of simmering tension. It is easy to get a sense that this is not an event that just happened overnight, it was built upon years rising pressure ‘Detroit’ seems to capture the exact moment that it boils over.
It is very important for a movie like this to capture the enormity of such an event. To this day the 1967 Detroit riot remains one of the largest in U.S history, with 43 deaths, 1,189 injured, more than 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed over the course of five days. It’s fair to say it might be the closest thing America came to having a warzone in their own country during the 20th century.
The trailer opens with archive stock footage but Bigalow’s vision feels so immersive and authentic that when the actual footage from the movie starts it hardly feels jarring. Bigalow’s films rarely fail to capture a moment, ground it within reality and make it relevant to our society but also utterly cinematic. ‘The Hurt Locker’ and ‘Zero dark Thirty’ work both as fascinating character studies and amazing examinations of our current culture. ‘Detroit’ poses of different challenge of capturing the moment from fifty years ago but I have little doubt Bigalow will succeed once again.
But one cannot overlook what seems to be a fantastic performance in the making from John Boyega. Granted we don’t see much of him in the trailer and the strength of this cast suggests it will be an ensemble piece just as much as a character study (we also have the likes of Anthony Mackie and Jason Mitchell to watch out for) the angle from which they are approaching it is enough to suggest something great could be waiting here. To see this event from the perspective of an African-American police officer adds such an unspoken layer of depth to the whole situation and it is one I’m more than ready to see Boyega tackle.
For all its social relevance though I don’t doubt for a second that ‘Detroit’ will be a viscerally thrilling and pulse pounding movie. Few modern directors are as accomplished as Bigalow and ever frame of this trailer oozes a sense of craftsmanship you simply don’t get elsewhere. The scenes of destruction look terrifying and brutal but they are so brilliantly composed and the cinematography looks so grandiose. Obviously one is tempted to mark it as an early Oscar contender and it is difficult to argue otherwise. The August release date is an obstacle to its success but not an insurmountable one, especially given that ‘The Hurt Locker’ was released in June of 2009. 50 years on and by the end of this year we could be talking about Detroit more than ever.