This troubling drama feels as timely as it did when it was initially released in 2013. The directorial debut of Ryan Coogler follows a day in the life of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), a young man who had a bright future that was violently ended at Fruitvale Station.
Based on a real-life incident that drew anger across America and beyond, Coogler teams with Jordan to tell the story of a 22-year-old black man who was killed by BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland. The killing was captured on camera by witnesses using cell phones, and with chilling prophecy, inherent racism in America was to blame. Grant was an innocent victim, and this is his story.
The film takes an interesting approach to telling this tragic tale. The killing itself has been well documented, not just in terms of the footage from the night itself, but also in countless articles that aim to shed light on the people involved. What Coogler does so well is that he focuses in on Grant, and highlights the ordinary day he had just before he was gone for good. In this way, the end hits home hard and goes beyond the headlines.
Coogler and Jordan have worked together on a number of projects after Fruitvale Station. Black Panther reinvented the superhero movie concept by putting strong black protagonists at the heart of the action. For Creed, the pair took the Rocky franchise and punched it into shape for modern audiences. With their first project, however, they deliver a deeply moving account that resonates more than any subsequent film they have made.
Fruitvale Station is an award-winning movie that signalled the arrival of two powerful filmmaking talents. The film is tough to watch at times, especially when you think back to earlier scenes showing a family man with so much to live for, but it is also essential viewing.