OUT OF 4
Director Ryan Coogler’s (MFA in Cinematic Arts from USC) Award-Winning debut feature film is an emotionally powerful and heart- wrenching experience. Coogler who wrote the script dramatizes the final day of 22 year old Oscar Grant’s life, as the unarmed Afro-American, is murdered by a white transit cop at a BART station in Oakland, California. It could have been a documentary, but, it works out much better as a narrative feature. It structurally borrows a tiny bit from the Award-Winning French film by Mathieu Kassovitz know as The Hate (“La Haine”) It was nursed along by The Sundance Institute and it was produced by Forest Whitaker’s production company for under a million dollars.
Oscar Grant is played by Michael B. Jordan (“The Wire”, “Friday Night Lights”, “Chronicle”) who gives a magnificent performance bursting with joy and seething with ferocity. Oscar is humanized so we see his flaws (went to prison for selling dope) but also feel his dreams. Texting is inserted into the frames with on-screen displays that draw us into Oscar’s moment to moment life. We experience his pain as he is fired from a supermarket job. He longs for the good life as he displays great affection for his mother (a great performance by Octavia Spencer), his girlfriend Sophina (a terrific Melonie Diaz) and, most of all, their young daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal) who exudes empathy in every scene she plays.
The pleasures of an ordinary day precede the film’s disturbing climax. The movie opens by showing us the actual murder captured by shaky cell phone video and closes by revealing that the transit cop that killed Oscar claims he reached for his Taser, but, by accident used his gun.
Fruitvale Station won both Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance 2013 back in January. It is a must see film in the Summer of Trevon and George Zimmerman.