Kathryn Bigelow’s ‘Detroit’ Is One of the ‘Most Essential Films of the Year’ and 9 More Rave Reviews

“‘Detroit’ is tough, but it’s worth it, every minute of it,” says one critic

Kathryn Bigelow has returned to the big screen with “Detroit,” her first movie since 2012’s “Zero Dark Thirty” — and critics are stunned by her “devastatingly effective achievement,” calling it one of the “most essential films of the year.”

“‘Detroit’ is tough, but it’s worth it, every minute of it,” San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle wrote in his review.

“‘Detroit’ is likely destined for the Oscar race, where Smith and Poulter could go head-to-head with best supporting actor nominations, if the film sustains itself through the long awards slog,” wrote USA Today’s Andrea Mandell. Other critics called the film Bigelow’s “most harrowing piece of filmmaking” and a “powerful piece of storytelling.”

TheWrap’s film critic Claudia Puig wrote, “‘Detroit’ is a work of consummate skill which kicks into high gear when the focus turns from widespread civil unrest to the very specific.”

The film, currently at 95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, marks the third collaboration between Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, who won an Oscar in 2010 for his screenplay for “The Hurt Locker” and received an additional nomination for his work on “Zero Dark Thirty.” It stars John Boyega, Will Poulter, Jack Reynor, Jason Mitchell, John Krasinski and Anthony Mackie.

“Detroit” details a five-day uprising in 1967 in protest of racial injustices, which resulted in hundreds of injuries and 43 deaths, and began with a police raid of an after-hours nightclub.

See 10 of the best reviews below.

Claudia Puig, TheWrap:

“Detroit’ has a vital sense of authenticity, rooted as it is in history, conveyed via Bigelow’s meticulously crafted cinema vérité style that, essentially, thrusts the viewer into the tense events. She is an expert at managing suspense and deftly blending sensitivity with a journalistic sense of details. Her signature filmmaking style — kinetic, visceral and immersive — works brilliantly here.”

Andrea Mandell, USA Today:

“In ‘Detroit,’ as guests are bloodied in a hotel hallway lineup, there’s no such counterbalance, creating a prolonged exercise in unchecked power. It’s a stunning, if devastatingly effective achievement… ‘Detroit’ is likely destined for the Oscar race, where Smith and Poulter could go head-to-head with best supporting actor nominations, if the film sustains itself through the long awards slog.”

Sara Stewart, New York Post:

“Director Kathryn Bigelow‘s been AWOL since her 2012 military thriller ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ but she’s come roaring back with another searing dramatization. This time, it’s of a single horrifying incident during Detroit’s 1967 unrest, also known as the 12th Street Riot. ‘Detroit’ may be tricked out with the Motown and miniskirts of the era, but its police-brutality narrative, assembled with firsthand accounts of that day, has chilling parallels with the here and now. It is not an easy watch, and it is an essential one.”

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Simon Crook, Empire Online:

“Recreated in unflinching real-time, ‘Detroit’s’ sustained sense-attack will be talked about for years, if not decades, to come – an hour-long endurance so physical you experience it in the pit of your stomach… A gruelling, nightmarish, ferociously vivid riot epic that recreates one of the darkest chapters in American history. Unflinching, unmissable and terrifyingly pertinent.”

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle:

“‘Detroit’ is a movie that will make you angry. It is designed to make you angry, and it does nothing to soften the blow or create some artificial uplift. But there is something about honesty that’s exhilarating. ‘Detroit’ is tough, but it’s worth it, every minute of it.”

Matt Goldberg, Collider

“‘Detroit’ is sure to get people talking, and it’s a conversation we should be having all the time, not just when there’s yet another story of a cop shooting an unarmed black man or another story of a different cop not being charged with the crime of shooting an unarmed black man. If Bigelow wanted to make a movie about Ferguson, she could have. But she chose this story to show that this history isn’t history. It happened, it’s happening, and it will continue to happen until we demand a different outcome.”

Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out

“Bigelow makes it the centerpiece of ‘Detroit’ and, simply put, has crafted her most harrowing piece of filmmaking. It consumes more than an hour and scrapes the far edge of a nightmare: the handcuffed suspects emitting naked fear, the officers leaning into self-righteousness with horrible consequences. To the movie’s enormous credit (and displaying an ambition that feels slightly overstuffed), it doesn’t end there but with a criminal trial. But the point of ‘Detroit’ –easily among the most essential films of the year–is the aftermath: The blood was washed away, but the guilt stuck around.”

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“This is a sombre, grieving movie which appears to gesture to the ghost-town ruin that is still in Detroit’s future. It may not quite have the single compelling lead performance that some might have wanted from it, but it has relevance and passion, and by finding the story’s heart in the music of the Dramatics, Bigelow creates a humanity amid the anguish.”

Robin Clifford, Reeling Reviews

“I do not want to go into the details of performances, filmmaking techniques, editing, production design, cinematography, dialog and the plethora of the things that make a film good or bad, terrible or terrific. ‘Detroit’ takes all of the abovementioned elements (and more) and combines them in a masterful telling of a not-to-be-proud-of incident in our recent (and relevant today) history… the film, ‘Detroit,’ transcends the words and brings to life, in a real time feel, the event, the people and the victims, and not just those murdered by the (exonerated in court) policemen. I am talking about a powerful piece of storytelling that is the best film so far this year. I give it an A.”

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

“I’m not sure rave reviews or buzzing awards talk are enough to express the amplitude of what director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal achieve in ‘Detroit,’ a film about race riots from half a century ago. It’s a hardcore masterpiece that digs into our violent past to hold up a dark mirror to the systemic racism that still rages in the here and now. Tragically, this incendiary topic could not be more timely or in need of clarifying debate. The movie begins with panels from the Great Migration, tempera paintings by Jacob Lawrence that show the post-World War I movement of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North in search of the promised land. They found something quite different – and equally soul-destroying.”