Fruitvale Station tells the story of the final moments of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old black man who was killed in 2009 by law enforcement.
This isn’t a spoiler, as you see real footage of his death at the start of the film. This is the directorial debut of Ryan Coogler, which is incredibly impressive considering how good this film is. A lot of times with sensitive biopics they sugarcoat the main character to make him a perfect martyr figure, but Coogler doesn’t do this. He creates a real person. A protagonist with flaws, he has aggressive tendencies, he’s been to jail, and he lies to his girlfriend and mother of his child. He isn’t a perfect person, but that doesn’t make his death any less tragic. A white officer who thought he was firing a Taser, not his gun, shot him in the back. He only served 11 months in jail, and even applied to have the conviction dropped so he could go back to being a police officer. The conviction was upheld, and his request was denied.
This is a powerful statement regarding police violence and the unheard lives it affects. It puts a story to a headline and humanizes a victim. The film shows the tragic ripples that police brutality has on both the macro and micro level. It disrupts and affects both communities and the families that make them up.
A few parts seem misplaced, like a scene involving a dog that is needlessly tragic, but overall it tells a gritty and true feeling story will realistic feeling characters. The casting is perfect, especially Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer. For a directorial debut, it is a fantastic film that has unfortunately flown under the radar. It is an important story that highlights the prevalent societal issue of systematic police brutality. We all know the names Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Freddie Grey. We deserve to know about Oscar Grant too.
Amy’s Recommendation: 9/10