After arrests at an unlicenced after hours club in Detroit, a riot begins and rapidly grows. After 3 days the entire city is a war-zone and its at this stage the focus narrows in on the Algiers Motel and the surrounding area. What happens next is a real time microcosm of the daily horror of black life in modern day America.
Director Kathryn Bigelow has created an utterly gruelling but must see film here.
Its gripping stuff, from its succinct animated history of black migration and white flight to its rage inducing closing scenes you'll want to look away but you won't be able. Twice I had to fight the urge to walk out and I'm not someone easily rattled by film. Director Bigelow places her camera right in the middle of it all, rubs our face in the horror and makes us witness every ugly brutal racist detail. Close ups of sweaty brutalised terrified young faces will make you hideously uncomfortable. And that's the point. We need to have our faces rubbed in it. We may find it hard to look at but we are only feeling a minuscule percentage of the fear and disgust that the real people felt. It's a great recreation of the era too. The looks, the clothes, the sounds, the music, the hair, all feel ripped from an early episode of Reeling In The Years. The sound design is amazing. It batters us, pins you to your chair. So much so that later quieter scenes are almost deafening in their silence. Gives us time to try and process what we've just witnessed.
The acting is outstanding. A few well known faces pepper the cast but its mostly newer actors and they are all excellent, giving their all. John Boyega is sidelined for most of the film as a bystander to events but does a lot with a little. The man's facial acting is immense I've got to say. Algee Smith as one of the young men caught up in it all is excellent too. You can see his heart breaking right in front of us. His rage and sadness at the events unfolding and the knowledge that he can't do anything. Will Poulter though. Jesus. Who would have thought the young lad from Son Of Rambow would grow up to be this fine an actor. He is superb. A horrific portrayal of ordinary evil. A fucking bastard. A man who sees it all as a game. A man who thinks he's on the side of the angels. A little smirk at a woman during the height of events is absolutely chilling. I fully expect a load of acting nominations for him next year. Ireland's own Jack Reynor, puts in a fine showing too as a man totally out of his depth who tries to keep up with the bad boys. Hannah Murray ( looking very different to Gilly from Game Of Thrones ) gives a cracking performance as well as a country girl regretting her current precarious position.
The film is set in 1967. Its might be comforting to some to see it as an event of the past. But its not really. It's still happening today. Black people die at the hands of the police with alarming regularity in America still. The country is ran by an openly bigoted piece of shit. If anything things have gotten worse. This film is a look at how bad things could get again if people keep their heads in the sand. I had trouble with parts of the film, especially early on. I couldn't understand the logic of some of the actions of some characters. And then it dawned on me. I could never understand. I'm a white man. I'm privileged. I've never been downtrodden and looked down on every day of my life. I don't know what its like to experience being hated. Haven't a clue. If the film does one thing it shows us in some small (tiny) way what it's like to live with that fear, that hate.
It's a really good film. OK it slows down near the end but after the assault on the senses that is the middle section of the film, it nearly comes as a relief to be able to breathe again. It's not a movie for everyone but if you think you'd be able for it I'd urge you to give it a go.
This is a film that deserves to be seen.