First, some history. The rioting in 1967, on 12th Street was sparked by a police raid on a "blind pig"; an unlicensed, after hours bar. This gives us our "part 1" of the story, as we see racial tensions between black and white flare. The African American community caused an uproar by looting, setting fire to buildings, and showing the world that they are finally sick and tired of such segregation. Getting out of hand, however, the already unfair Detroit police force do what's "necessary" to calm these situations down that are spreading throughout town like hell fire.
Enter our main characters, without having to go into too much detail. Larry Reed (Algee Smith) and Fred Temple (Jacob Latimore) of the real singing group 'The Dramatics' get separated from the rest of their band during a riot, and they stay at the Algeirs Motel that night. During their stay, another guy named Carl (Jason Mitchell) decides to mess with some of the riot guardsmen by shooting blanks in their direction. Of course, they are taken as real gunfire, so a group of cops head in to begin what would go down in history as the "Algiers Motel Incident".
Melvin Dismukes (John Boyega) was acting as security at a grocery store right near where the blank-shooting was aimed, so he and the guardsmen go to check things out. Meanwhile, however, a crooked and racist cop named Krauss (Will Poulter) is in the motel, with his two partners, seemingly doing whatever is "necessary" to get the answer from anyone staying there as to where the gun is. The whole thing is very disturbing to watch, but it's made even more disturbing by the fact that according to various sources, the actual goings on of the incident were much, much worse. You can't help but feel for Melvin during the whole movie, and Boyega really shows some more of his acting chops here. Don't be so fooled by his just okay role in 'Star Wars', the dude can carry emotion.
It should be mentioned that the second part of this movie, in which the Algiers Motel Incident is unfolding, is one of the most uncomfortable things you'll see this year. It's very much torture porn, but more in the sense of emotional than physical. I mean, of course it does get physical, but it's not like watching 'Hostel' so much as watching a bully breaking people down.
The third part of this movie is the aftermath, taking place during the trials, and showing the testimonies of those involved. And I won't spoil the ending, but let's just say it ends up being a very important part of history that you probably never actually knew about. I mean, it's not like saying "Oh, the Titanic sinks at the end, haha" where everyone is well-aware of the incident. It's more like a wake up call, in a way, and a total downer when you find out what really became of it all.
The movie was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who many may still be mad at for winning that Best Picture award for 'The Hurt Locker'. Y'know, one of those movies I liked for the story but it's basically the fakest thing in the world according to anyone with any sort of military training. So yeah, between that and the potential taboo of having a white woman direct a movie on black history, there's some controversy floating around on this one. But what do I think?
Well, I have to say that it looked like Bigelow did a pretty good job at doing her homework on this one. You're given a better history in the beginning of this movie as to what lead up to this riot than you can even find online. I know this because I was trying to start the review with it, but I didn't wanna screw anything up, historically.
Apart from that, it's very well-acted and has given me my most hated character of 2017 in the form of Krauss. I've always also been one to shy away from the "torture porn" aspect of film, but in a case that involves historical events, I daresay it's somewhat necessary. This was this big important event that happened and more or less got ignored for about 50 years. For most of us, this movie seems to be the introduction to it, and to see people get treated so harshly is a reinforcement of the reality of it all. No one came out of 'Saving Private Ryan' saying they hated it because of the Normandy scene and it's literal bloodbath. Most people, including veterans, claimed it to be the most realistic portrayal of the battleground and respected it for that reason. This one gets a lot of flack because it's the torture of African American people plus two white women. I don't mean to sound insensitive on that point, but I think it illustrates how truly sensitive we are to these issues. We're quick to say "that's just sick torture porn stuff for Hollywood purposes" when the reality was, again, apparently much worse than what was on screen.
This movie brought this incident to my attention, and made me fully aware of how bad things got during those riots, whereas I can admit to sadly being ignorant to it beforehand. It's a powerful one to watch if you can make it thorugh, but it's a lot like watching something like 'Schindler's List'. It's dark, it's depressing, it's uncomfortable, and you may never want to see it again, BUT that "holy shit" message definitely gets across. Turns out, for me, this was a powerful story.