Fruitvale Station: A Haunting Explosion—Movie

Sometimes an explosive story has more impact when told quietly. This is “Fruitvale Station,” a film that will haunt you long after you exit the theatre.Fruitvale Station

The very real, cold, hard facts of “Fruitvale Station” are that an unarmed, 22-year-old Oscar Grant was shot and killed, lying face down, at the Fruitvale Station platform by a Bay Area Transit police officer in the very early hours of January 1, 2009. The unprovoked shooting was captured on video by onlookers, provoking protests and discussion.

What “Fruitvale Station’s” writer and first-time director Ryan Coogler does is show us who Oscar Grant was, warts and all. He presents the man inside of those facts. Coogler accomplishes this by focusing on Oscar’s final day. We learn that Oscar was struggling to find his place in the world. We see that he had the makings of a good father and was trying to put things right with his girlfriend, the mother of his child. We watch Oscar trying to shake free of drugs and dealing. We also learn that Oscar has a prison record, has been fired from his job and, when pushed, has a temper. In short, he’s an imperfect human being.  And it’s when his act of kindness intersects with his past, his life comes to an end and we are left wondering what might have been.

“Fruitvale Station’s” acting is phenomenal. Michael B. Jordan is sheer perfection as Oscar. His is not a showy performance, but it grabs your attention. His tough love, no-nonsense mother is beautifully portrayed by Octavia Spencer.  Melonie Diaz is terrific as Oscar’s girlfriend, Sophina, who in many ways has the same personality as Oscar’s mother. Finally, there is Ariana Neal as Oscar’s daughter, Tatiana. She is precociously adorable and just right for the part.

Coogler has bookended the movie flawlessly—the film begins with showing us the genuine event and ends with the introduction of Oscar’s real family. Much of the movie is shot at the actual train station. It’s the least the Transit Authority could do.

It’s hard to believe this is Ryan Coogler’s first film. Although he is abetted by an excellent cast, the vision and execution of “Fruitvale Station” is his. As a film-goer I can’t wait to see what he does next.

4 nuggets out of 4


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