Fruitvale Station: A disturbing mix of past, present

Gary Wolcott, atomictown.comSeptember 20, 2013 

Film Review Fruitvale Station

This film publicity image released by The Weinstein Company shows Michael B. Jordan in a scene from "Fruitvale Station." (AP Photo/The Weinstein Company, Ron Koeberer)


Fruitvale Station is a biopic. The incident happened four years ago, but the subject is, unfortunately, seen too often in today's headlines.

Early in the morning of New Year's Day 2009, a Bay Area Transit Authority (BART) security officer in Oakland, Calif., shot and killed Oscar Grant III at the Fruitvale Station. An altercation of some sort broke out on one of BART's trains between a stop up the line and Fruitvale.

Grant, a black twentysomething, was one of those accused of fighting. He resisted arrest by a BART security officer. The officer contends he thought he grabbed his Taser and was going to stun Grant into submission. Instead the man grabbed his service revolver and put a bullet in Grant's back. The young man died later that day.

The officer was eventually found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

Fruitvale Station looks at Grant's life the day he died. Writer/director Ryan Coogler casts a most excellent Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle) as Grant. Oscar winner Octavia Spencer (The Help) is his mother. Grant's mom talked him into taking BART to New Year's festivities rather than driving.

Both are superb.

Coogler weaves the story of Grant's last day with flashbacks of his past. The 22-year-old had a troubled past. Jail time for drugs and trouble at a traffic stop. He had a child out of wedlock. Oscar dropped out of high school, and most of his jobs were in the menial labor category.

That is fact.

More speculative is Coogler's portrait of Grant's last day. He shows him reflecting upon his past and determined to change. Family members say Grant was at that point. But no one really knows what's happening in someone else's head.

It doesn't matter anyway. Coogler opens the movie with mobile device video of the actual incident. The film's real focus is that Grant should be alive today. Though the incident happened more than four years ago, it is scarily relevant today. Race rage, angry youths, drugs, jail, rioting and violent death haunt the movie.

It's not just that Grant was killed or that he was black. This film highlights the disturbing nature of our current societal universe. Even more disturbing, it offers few answers.

Director: Ryan Coogler

Stars: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer

Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars

Rated R for language, violence, drugs. It is playing at the Carmike 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.

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