Summer is the time for turning off your brain and watching big space robots clobber each other, or making another failed attempt to resist Minions, or trying to suss out whatever the hell this Luc Besson thing is. In other words, it ain’t the time for thinkin’. And yet in early August, there’s no escape from being reminded that the world sucks — unless you decide not to go see “Detroit,” Kathryn Bigelow’s timely historical account of the 1967 Detroit riots and the racist cops who gunned down three unarmed black men as it swelled.
Bigelow, in case you forgot, once made one of the great summer movies: 1991’s “Point Break.” (Apparently there was a remake?) But since becoming the first woman to ever win a Best Director Oscar with “The Hurt Locker,” she’s eked out a corner in Hollywood as a rigorous creator of ambitious, you-are-there political spectacles. “Detroit” is her third collab (after “Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty”) with journalist-turned-screenwriter Mark Boal, who roots through the history books — namely a story exhaustively covered in John Hersey’s amazing, thrilling 1968 book “The Algiers Motel Incident,” though the film is not an adaptation of it — to give us the straight story about an underknown blot on America’s race relations.
The new trailer chases its intense teaser from a few months ago, implying that it will focus largely on the accounts in Hersey’s book. (Which you really should read. It’s very experimental for non-fiction, with long sections that are unedited transcripts, giving voce to people involved or related to the murdered or injured parties, as well as to some of the suspected officers.) The incident in question took place two days into the riots, which found black patrons of an after hour bar striking back against racially-motivated cops, spawning a four-day uprising. On the night of June 25, police responded to shots fired from the run-down Algiers Motel; their investigations resulted in three murdered and nine wounded. The charged cops were found not guilty.
Bigelow and Boal’s film features an ensemble cast, though John Boyega appears to have a key role as the motel security guard who’s wronglyl suspected of being involved. We also see glimpses of Anthony Mackie, John Krasinski and Will Poulter, who plays one of the swarthiest of the pigs. The last film by the director-screenwriter team, “Zero Dark Thirty,” caused heated debates over whether it validated torture. We’re guessing the Breitbarts et al. won’t be defending a film that arrives some eight months into the presidency of a guy who (sort of) won by exacerbating deep-seated racial anxieties among whites. Here’s to a cruel summer!
Watch the trailer below; “Detroit” hits theaters on Aug. 4.