19 February 2019 | AlsExGal
True story suspense drama that is entertaining enough
It's 1967, and rioting and looting has broken out in the city of Detroit, with buildings being burned and shots being fired. The situation has progressed to the point that National Guard troops have been mobilized in the streets, and no one is safe. It's with this setting that the main story unfolds when shots are reported fired from a hotel, and police and troops converge on the building, leading to tense situation that leaves several people dead. The cast includes John Boyega as a black, uniformed security guard who gets swept up in events; Will Poulter as the leader of a trio of beat cops who take things too far; Algee Smith as an aspiring pop singer who has the misfortune of checking into the hotel; Anthony Mackie as a recently discharged Army veteran.
This seemed like the kind of film to ignite a firestorm of controversy, with its setting of racial unrest and us-vs-them police misconduct coming on the heels of the recent incidents across the country, from Ferguson to Baltimore. Maybe people were exhausted from the news, or perhaps other current event spectacles rendered past injustices as moot points, whatever the reason, the film flopped at the box office although the critics enjoyed it. I liked it as well, but not as much as they did. Bigelow and Boal previously collaborated on the superior The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. They attempt a "you are there" cinema verite style that uses a lot of handheld camera and very little gloss or overly stylish cinematic tricks. They also made the wise decision to cast relative unknowns so as not to distract from the story, with the biggest names in the cast (Mackie and Krasinski) in lesser roles.
There's quite a bit of build up before the movie gets to its main focus, but that may have been necessary to explain the actions of those involved when things finally hit the fan. Running just under 2 and a half hours, I found it a bit over long, and could have seen at least 15 minutes trimmed away. The performances are good for the most part, but I'm not too fond of Poulter. This isn't a bad movie at all, but it is hardly a stand-out in Bigelow's catalog of films.