Fruitvale Station is a film written and directed by Ryan Coogler. The film is based on the true story of Oscar Grant, a young man who was killed in the early hours of New Year’s Day in 2009 by a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer. The movie follows Grant (Michael B. Jordan) on his last day alive as he spends time with his family before the New Year’s celebration. The film is a scant 85 minutes in length.
Fruitvale Station is the feature-length debut by Coogler (pictured at the far left with Michael B. Jordan), a 27-year-old filmmaker who has previously made three award-winning short films. Coogler takes a story that everyone going in already knows the ending to, and yet, he does so in a way that made me emphasize with each character, praying for the inevitable ending not to happen. The movie has such a limited storytelling, considering it takes place all in one day (with the exception of a short flashback scene), and Coogler uses this to fully immerse the viewers into the world of Oscar Grant. It is simple, but stylistic; heartbreaking, but beautiful. This may be the first film from Coogler, but his inspiring debut effort has garnered critical acclaim from everyone in Hollywood—he has signed on to direct Creed, a spin-off from the Rocky series that is sure to be a blockbuster affair.
Apart from Coogler’s striking filmmaking, the movie succeeds with tremendous acting, especially from Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer. Little by little, I have followed Jordan’s young acting career, from his early roles in the Keanu Reeves film Hardball and HBO’s The Wire to his recent appearance in Chronicle (2012). Even from his early days in the business, I could tell Jordan had a wealth of potential, and I am glad to see that coming to fruition. In Fruitvale Station, Jordan acts with incredible dexterity as he portrays a troubled young father trying to escape his past to provide a better life for his family. At times, the character is brash and angry, but at other times he is sensitive and caring—Jordan’s delineation of the complicated Grant made me feel for his character no matter which way he was leaning on the emotional spectrum. I was hoping that Jordan would receive either a Golden Globe or Oscar nomination for his performance, but this film proves that he will most likely get there, deservedly, in the near future.
One performance not to be overlooked in this film is that of Octavia Spencer in the role of Grant’s mother. Spencer is a particularly established actress, having won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Help (2011), and even though you do not spend a large amount of time with her character, her performance is what acts as the glue to hold this tragic story together. She plays the character with honesty and command, and her performance was definitely one of the film’s many gems. Fruitvale Station is rated R for violence, language throughout and some drug use.
Fruitvale Station trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crMTGCCui5c
Academy Award nominations for Fruitvale Station:
Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of the Year:
14. The Place Beyond the Pines
15. Dallas Buyers Club