Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer
Director: Ryan Coogler
Running Time: 85 mins
Fruitvale Station is an American film about the true story of Oscar Grant III, as he passes through a challenging day on New Year’s Eve 2008.
The breakthrough film for now-established stars Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station is a film that’s certainly filled with passion and experience, delivering the tale of an extraordinary day in an ordinary man’s life.
First and foremost a powerfully intimate and strikingly personal watch, the film does justice to the true story of Oscar Grant III, lending a powerful and heartfelt insight into his life, as well as the event that brought his name to the attention of the whole world.
More than just a personal drama, however, director Ryan Coogler injects Grant’s story with wider themes of racism, the class divide and wealth disparity in modern America. In that, the film features a powerfully passionate emotional foundation that forms the bedrock of its story.
In tandem with a down-to-earth and reserved lead performance from Michael B. Jordan, we’re led into the life of a man struggling to cope with a barrage of stress, problems and injustices, and form a powerful connection with him over the course of what becomes an extraordinary day.
And it’s the way that Fruitvale Station unfolds that really makes it hit home most effectively. Starting as a purely personal drama, the film slowly begins to widen its gaze, with those broader themes gradually playing a greater and greater role in Oscar Grant’s life, building to a climax with wide-ranging consequences a world away from where the story began.
It’s a brilliant technique that director Coogler develops to near-perfection throughout, and sets Fruitvale Station apart from a number of social dramas that use their core themes in a more direct, linear manner.
Saying that, however, there are times when Fruitvale Station doesn’t quite have the intense dramatic power that it perhaps should. It’s a gripping and often devastating watch, but the one thing that the film lacks is a consistent air of hard-hitting emotion.
Instead, it features a number of striking flashpoints which are interspersed with drama that doesn’t quite hit home on the same level.
As a result, this film isn’t as powerful as its story would often seem to promise, even though it features undeniable passion and real-life grit throughout. Furthered by excellent direction from Coogler and a strong lead turn from Michael B. Jordan, it’s a gripping and strikingly intimate drama throughout. So, that’s why I’m giving Fruitvale Station a 7.4 overall.