On a long overdue trip to the cinema, my brother and I, having heard vaguely of the great reviews from Sundance in 2013, went to see Fruitvale Station. I think it’s a great thing to go see a film in which you have completely no knowledge or expectations of. I was impressed. Ryan Coogler’s debut film was funded with lots of help from people like Forest Whitaker and Octavia Spencer. AND THANK GOD FOR THAT.
The first scene (completely intense and forceful in its stark realism and use of sound- arguably carried on throughout) shows phone footage of a group of young black guys being held on a train platform by some white cops. Their distant arguing is heard, and suddenly someone is shot. Fruitvale Station is based on real events from 2009, in which Oscar Grant, a 22 year old father is killed by police officers in the early hours of New Year’s Day. Coogler’s film traces the 24 hours before.
Michael B Jordan stars as Oscar Grant and MAN he is good. He has such intensity about him, with a real weight to his emotive and natural performance. Likewise every single person in the film, every one, can’t really be faulted in performance. Octavia Spencer is naturally amazing and Melonie Diaz is truly exceptional. The everyday interaction between characters is presented so wonderfully raw and familiar. I think that’s what’s so great about Coogler’s film- the honesty. The film is based on truth, and the acting, setting, events and music are truthful. It feels real!!!!!! Perhaps the only downfall is perhaps the sense of subtle manipulation throughout. It IS subtle but the film has feelings of deliberate poignancy to it, such as scenes like Grant staring out at the water, before chucking a huge bag of weed in to the sea, and earlier crying over the death of a stray dog. I’ve later read these particular scenes were crafted by Coogler, unlike the majority in which was taken from witness testimonies and trial documents. Maybe it’s obvious, on reflection, but it does contribute to overall sympathy you feel for this character-this nice guy, who loves his family and friends and is trying to recuperate from a stint in jail.
Coogler gives just enough background to provide overall understanding, and the pace is honest in distribution and generally is used flawlessly. Likewise, the use of silence is powerful and perfected- moments of extension just that tiny bit too long, are utterly satisfying and provide further poignancy and raw imagery to the film. I’d recommend.