Fruitvale Station (2013)
Directed by Ryan Coogler
Does it swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help it God? Not quite, according to this Forbes fact-checker’s investigation. But regardless, “Fruitvale Station,” Ryan Coogler’s powerhouse directing debut, uses a refreshing lens of (what seems like) realism to recount the tragic final hours leading up to the New Year’s Day 2009 death of Oscar Grant III (Michael B. Jordan), a young black father in Oakland.
Critics bash Coogler for twisting the facts to allow audiences to more easily sympathize with the young man, who had recently gotten out of jail, cheated on his girlfriend, and lost his job. All of these flaws are covered, but in ways that nevertheless try to paint a positive picture of Grant. Still, relative newcomer Michael B. Jordan (“Chronicle”) steals the spotlight in a role that garnered its share of positive feedback. What it didn’t get, unfortunately, was any serious critical acclaim. In his breakout role, Jordan is the portrait of a complicated character, one that divides audiences and makes the case that nobody, regardless of their criminal history or morality, deserves to die. The rest of the cast, including Melanie Diaz and Octavia Spencer (playing Grant’s girlfriend and mom, respectively) also sell audiences on the realism of the story.
Though it only covers the course of a day, “Fruitvale Station” is surprisingly well-paced. Even if you know how it ends, you stay engaged – it’s not about being surprised, it’s about being moved. Even if Coogler skimps on the negatives, well-informed audiences can make their own judgments. “Fruitvale Station” does a remarkable job of telling a story that keeps audiences captivated and leaves them speechless…or talking back, which is even more impressive.