It’s a little early for Best Picture candidates to come out, isn’t it? Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow has made a name for herself by shooting gritty, realistic depictions of modern warfare (“The Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark Thirty”). “Detroit” is merely a departure in setting, not genre.

Set in 1967 Detroit, the mix of economic depression and rising racial tensions come to a head at the Algiers Hotel, a cheap oasis for black youth to escape the literal war zone in their neighborhoods. Police, state patrol and the National Guard are patrolling the burning streets while looting runs rampant. A curfew is in effect, but it’s just another day in paradise for most of the black youth who just want to live their lives and let loose with some alcohol and loud music.

A toxic blend of police aggression, miscommunication and being at the wrong place at the wrong time sets off a series of cold-blooded killings and the subsequent aftermath. When the smoke clears, what’s left is a previously untold story that becomes another part of America’s shameful racist legacy.

A mostly unknown cast surrounds rising stars John Boyega and Will Poulter, who play a black security guard and the racist ranking police officer on scene, respectively. Anthony Mackey adds star power, but the real standout performances are by Algee Smith (Larry) and Jacob Latimore (Fred), who are really the central figures of the entire story. Larry is a singer with a silky smooth voice, and Fred is his biggest fan and best friend. Caught unaware, they are portrayed as the real innocent victims, even more so than the other patrons of the Algiers. Bigelow somehow is able to make the two of them stand out in a true ensemble cast, all delivering outstanding performances, which is a testament to both their acting and her direction.

There was one maddening question I kept asking myself throughout, and you will too as you find yourself sucked into the extremely well-done tension. But as expressed at the end of the film, much of the accuracy of the actual events are unknown, so award-winning writer Mark Boal took some liberties to add dramatic effect. His restraint shown in his liberties pays off handsomely, and what the viewer gets as a result is two and a half hours of what feels more like a documentary than a blend of fiction and non.

What stood out to me was not how tragic the events seemed to be, but how timely and shockingly poignant the story is with the current Black Lives Matter movement. Not to get too off track, but “Detroit” truly struck a nerve; in a good way. The aim was to dig deep into the soul of the viewer and tap into the uncomfortable recognition of racial inequities that still exist in our society. To shed light on the real problem with police brutality, which isn’t necessarily that cops are racist, but that there is a stark cultural divide in perspective and lifestyle between those who are charged with protecting the people and the citizens. This is particularly noticeable in 1967 Detroit, but is certainly still relevant today.

“Detroit” is a gritty and sometimes somber reminder of how things once were during the Civil Rights Movement, but what really sticks is the question; have things really changed that much? The emotions will be stirred in you, and you will leave with a real sense of tragedy, but also that this was an exceptionally made film. If buzz can stick around, expect award nominations to prevail. This is certainly one of the best films I’ve seen so far this year.