‘Detroit’ reviews: Kathryn Bigelow tackles police brutality in her ‘uncompromising’ Oscar contender

Kathryn Bigelow has tackled controversial subject matter before: the Iraq War in “The Hurt Locker” (2009), which earned her the distinction as the first woman ever to win Best Director at the Oscars, and then the hunt for Osama bin Laden in “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012), which earned rave reviews from most critics but faced opposition over its depiction of the torture of CIA prisoners. That controversy might have cost her a second nomination for Best Director, but the film was nevertheless nominated for Best Picture. And five years later Bigelow isn’t shying away from hot-button real-life subjects. Her new film “Detroit” went wide on August 4 following a limited release on July 28, and it tackles police brutality and the riots that plagued the title city exactly 50 years ago.

“Detroit” has been well received by critics, scoring 79 on MetaCritic and 89% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes. Those aren’t the same kinds of stratospheric numbers as “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty” received (both had Metascores over 90), but it is nevertheless earning the kinds of raves that point to a strong Oscar contender. It’s being described as “tough” and “uncompromising,” “visceral” and “overwhelming.” It’s Bigelow’s “timeliest movie yet,” “not an easy watch, and it is an essential one.” And the filmmaker creates a “turbulent, live-wire panorama of race in America.”

What do you think? Will “Detroit” contend for Oscars? Check out some of the reviews below, and join the discussion in our forums.

Calvin Wilson (St. Louis Post-Dispatch): “‘Detroit’ is a tough, uncompromising but flawed film that addresses a historical event to comment on racism and its consequences. Working from a screenplay by Mark Boal, with whom she collaborated on ‘The Hurt Locker’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ director Kathryn Bigelow creates an experience as visceral as it is overwhelming.”

Ann Hornaday (Washington Post): “Of a piece with Bigelow’s Oscar-winning 2008 Iraq drama ‘The Hurt Locker’ and 2012’s ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ the tense, harrowingly intimate ‘Detroit’ rounds out a trilogy of fact-based, fog-of-war interpretive histories. Even though it’s based on an episode that occurred half a century ago, it feels like her timeliest movie yet.”

Sara Stewart (New York Post): “‘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.”

Owen Gleiberman (Variety): “For this is no comforting drama of social protest. It’s closer to a hair-trigger historical nightmare, one you can’t tear yourself away from. Bigelow, working from a script by her regular collaborator Mark Boal (it’s their first film since ‘Zero Dark Thirty’), has created a turbulent, live-wire panorama of race in America that feels like it’s all unfolding in the moment, and that’s its power.”

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