(MINOR SPOILERS)- You probably heard about this story in the news
You need to see this movie. It’s that simple. I’ve had fun with this summer’s big movies but yo it’s time to get serious. Fruitvale Station truly is an important movie and that’s regardless of quality. It tells the story of Oscar Grant, played by Michael B. Jordan, who was killed on New Years day in 2009. Rather than chronicling Oscars life the movie shows us the hours just before his last moments. The first scene of the movie shows us the actual footage of Oscar being shot. We then are sucked up into Oscar’s life 12 hours before his final moments.
New writer/director Ryan Coogler relishes in giving Oscar humanity and dimensionality. We as an audience know his fate but that doesn’t stop us from wanting to know more about him. Through character interaction and an amazing performance from Michael B. Jordan we understand every motivation he has. The humanity created within this movie escalates to the point where you don’t want it to end because you know what Oscar’s fate is. Coogler uses guerrilla style filmmaking to create a naturalistic document of of a man’s life in just 12 hours. His brutal use of close up shots on Oscar create an intimate experience for the audience. A few supporting characters and some scenes feel like filler to get to the finale but ehhh it can be looked past.
The story here is essentially just Oscar and his choices that he makes during a day. He’s caught up in drug dealing and he’s having trouble at work and with his family. It’s not as 2 dimensional as that though. These problems are layered and feel authentic. The script doesn’t tell the audience “Now this is where we’re going and this is why that happened.” We are actually shown it. Most of the movie is just Oscar living his life and it’s not easy for him but he makes the best of it. He wants to do right. As he talks to his daughter and they both smile and just like that the audience feels a connection to these people. It’s the execution of simple and small moments that make this movie special. Does it pander a bit? Yeah, but that’s less of a flaw for me because we know the outcome.
The final 20 minutes is a heart pounding and tension filled work of art that will bring on the water works. Most movies will come off as somewhat melodramatic and forced in scenes such as this but not here. Not even close.
At times the movie is a bit knowing of this and uses it to manipulate its audience. It feels a bit forceful but there’s always a layer of emotion beneath that makes up for it. Oscar was caught up in some problems but was unjustly killed by a police officer. Coogler’s film feels progressive and devastatingly relevant.
Fruitvale Station is told with passion and power. It’s one of the top 10 movies of the year at this point. Ryan Coogler’s direction is mind blowing for a first time director, and he clearly has stuff to say. Michael B. Jordan is getting an Oscar nomination for this powerful performance. This kid is gonna be a huge star and I can’t wait. The movie does drag at times and perhaps is a bit forced at making you like Oscar but the ending is worth it all. Oscar Grant is not just a symbol for people, he’s much more than that. He’s shown as a real person in flesh and blood. The haunting knowledge of his death makes the audience realize how precious life is. It can be taken at any second, unjustly. What I find most impressive about Fruitvale Station is that instead of relying on the death of Oscar Grant, the movie celebrates his life.
Worth mentioning that Director Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan will be making “Creed” next. The grandson of Apollo Creed played by Michael B. Jordan is trained by Rocky Balboa. As a huge fan of the Rocky movies I plan to keep an eye on that project.