This is the true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who wakes up on the morning of December 31, 2008 and feels something in the air. Not sure what it is, he takes it as a sign to get a head start on his resolutions: being a better son to his mother, whose birthday falls on New Year's Eve, being a better partner to his girlfriend, who he hasn't been completely honest with as of late, and being a better father to T, their beautiful 4 year old daughter. He starts out well, but as the day goes on, he realizes that change is not going to come easy. He crosses paths with friends, family, and strangers, each exchange showing us that there is much more to Oscar than meets the eye. But it would be his final encounter of the day, with police officers at the Fruitvale BART station that would shake the Bay Area to its very core, and cause the entire nation to be witnesses to the story of Oscar Grant. Written by
The Weinstein Company
Ryan Coogler's impeccable writing and directing are phenomenal, and in the film's final scenes, tears are guaranteed.
In the wake of the many tragic shootings in the U.S., things have looked pretty bleak for Americans. Haunted by the Newtown school shooting, the Aurora theater shooting, as well as countless local and minor shootings, American lives have been turned upside-down on numerous occasions. Somehow, one recent shooting almost seems to have been buried by the others. That shooting is the tragic death of Oakland citizen Oscar Grant on New Year's Eve, 2008. Five years later, first time director Ryan Coogler brings this story back to the public eye with Fruitvale Station, a heart-wrenching drama that is sure to leave you misty-eyed.
Fruitvale Station ultimately opens with its ending. The tragedy unfolds with real footage recorded by witnesses on their cell phones during the event. Oscar and some of his friends are brutalized by Bay Area Rapid Transit police for getting into a fight on the subway. Oscar, supposedly resisting arrest, is pinned to the ground by an officer. He pulls what he believes is his taser, and pulls the trigger. A loud bang rings as the screen cuts to black.
The film then rewinds, and proceeds to cover the 24 hours leading to the incident at Fruitvale station, the last 24 hours of Oscar Grant's life. As Oscar's remaining hours slowly dwindle down, the film delves into the background and life of Oscar, who lives with his girlfriend Sophina and their young daughter Tatiana. Oscar's relationship with his mother, his history with marijuana, and his family life is studied before the heart-wrenching incident unfolds on the fateful New Year's Eve.
Fruitvale Station retells the depressing true story with exhilarating emotion and tear-jerking drama. What's great about Fruitvale Station is the way that the script doesn't go out of its way to make Oscar a hero or an overly sympathetic protagonist. The film shows Oscar for what he was: a troubled young man who wanted to become a better one, but was held back by his past. The writing manages to accurately tell the story, but also adds in some important elements that never happened, foreshadowing the dramatic end.
The film's real strength is the passionate portrayal of Oscar Grant by up-and-coming actor Michael B. Jordan. In his first leading role, Jordan hits it out of the park, portraying every aspect of Oscar's personality with phenomenal passion. He's charming and relatable, but also explosive when the situation calls for it. In what should've been an Oscar nominated role (no joke intended), Jordan's performance cannot be summed up in words. The supporting cast is also strong, notably Melonie Diaz as Sophina and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer as Oscar's mother, both of whom are memorable and emotionally stunning in their roles.
For a movie with a first time director, Fruitvale Station is a triumph. Ryan Coogler's impeccable writing and directing are phenomenal, and in the film's final scenes, tears are guaranteed. Michael B. Jordan puts up a performance that is sure to make him a star, while Melonie Diaz and Octavia Spencer back up the film extremely well. With all these elements combined together in one emotionally hard-hitting package, they make Fruitvale Station one of the best movies of the year.
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