Cinema Review – Fruitvale Station

On New Year’s Day 2009, Oscar Grant II (Michael B. Jordan) and his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz) are on the way home from celebrating the arrival of the New Year. While on a BART train, an altercation breaks out and, when the police arrive, Oscar ends up being shot. Fruitvale Station takes a look back at the final day in the life of a young man whose death sparked riots around the Bay Area. Director Ryan Coogler was a film student at the time of Oscar Grant’s death, and it is clear that he was hugely affected by the death of this young man, and the fact that people on the train caught the shooting on camera. Showing this real footage at the start of the film is an interesting choice, as it establishes, then breaks the idea that Fruitvale Station is a documentary, and tells the audience how the film will eventually end up. Michael B. Jordan plays Oscar as a flawed man who is trying to make his previous bad decisions right. He allows the audience to empathise with Oscar, by making him a real and rounded character. The same goes for Melonie Diaz as Oscar’s girlfriend Sophina, while Hollywood heavyweight Octavia Spencer brings some depth and weight to the proceedings. The film follows Jordan as Oscar Grant, during the 24 hours before he is killed. Through Coogler’s script, it emerges that Grant is a young man who has made mistakes and is obviously at a turning point in his life. The trouble is that Oscar doesn’t do many remarkable things during this day; other than save a dog from traffic and throw away a considerable amount of marijuana. The rest of the day is filled with things like talking to his sister on the phone and planning a birthday party for his Mum. This gives us an insight into the man’s life, but since we already know the end to the story, it is often difficult to understand why we are watching the life of a doomed man. Coogler’s direction often feels more like a reconstruction than a narrative film, and the question arises as to whether Fruitvale Station may have been better as a documentary. Those of us unfamiliar with the shooting and its aftermath could well find themselves strangely unaffected by a death that is foreshadowed in the opening moments of the film. Fruitvale Station is the examination of the death of a young man who did nothing more than resist arrest. While it is obvious that Oscar Grant II’s death was wrongful and unjust, there is a deeper and more interesting story to be told by his friends and family, than this narrative film that feels like a reality show gone bad. Rating: 3/5

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