Profiling the real-life story of Oscar Grant, who was shot by police on a subway platform, Fruitvale Station has enormous power in its simplicity. All it does is show the day in the life of Oscar on Dec 31, 2008, leading up to the disturbing moment of violence. Oscar (played by Michael B. Jordan) is a 22-year-old father who is trying to figure out life. The film only has one flashback, and that’s when he spent time in jail and is visited by his Mom (played by a marvellous Octavia Spencer).
On the day of his death, he’s back with his girlfriend (Melonie Diaz), and taking his 4-year-old daughter to school. He stops by the grocery store where he’s just been laid off from, but still takes the time to help a customer figure out how to have a fish fry. There’s moments where you see him trying to turn his life around, but he’s not presented as some saintly figure either. Oscar is more presented as a tragic tale of a life unlived. We don’t know how Oscar’s life would have ended up, but the movie shows us the tragedy of not being able to find out.
While the film just focuses on moments of everyday life, Michael B. Jordan takes these moments to a whole other level with his powerful and charismatic performance. He’s such a likeable and charming actor that you want to see him succeed, you want to see thrive, but most of all, you just want to watch him more, which makes his abrupt end that much more impactful. This indie movie has picked up buzz all year, and Michael B. Jordan has seen his star rise with it. This is a young actor who will be around for a very long time.
Fruitvale Station doesn’t try to preach to you or get too sentimental. Bookended by real-life footage, first-time writer-director Ryan Coogler creates an impactful story by showing the simple tragedy of it.