This is a harrowing film, which hits you hard in the gut. It is about Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) and his final 24 hours before he was shot by a police officer on New Year’s Eve in 2008. A black man shot by a white man (that’s what it is, let’s be honest). It is an effective piece of filmmaking and acting with Jordan and Octavia Spencer doing solid acting work.
The film is based on a true incident, which is shocking and important. This is a story that deserves cinematic treatment. However good or bad you are as a human being, however flawed or untarnished, there is absolutely no reason why anybody should be murdered for no reason.
If only the writing was not calculated and went for a more expansive approach than a minimalistic one. The film opens with actual footage when Oscar was shot at Fruitvale Station. Then we disover more about him as he goes about his day. Cheats on his girlfriend – Bad. Loves his mom – Good. Helps a white woman and a dog – Good. Jailed in 2007 - Bad. These events are shown to make us formulate an opinion about his character. My question is – should that have an effect on whether we believe him being shot was justified or not? If he was a real asshole who didn’t want to change would this story have been differently told?
I’m not exactly a fan of films that combine the documentary style of filmmaking with feature films. Movies should be movies and documentaries should be documentaries. Making a feature film and showing real footage at the beginning or the end has become a fad. While it is an effective document of a hate crime or an unpardonable mistake, however you see it, I would have preferred if this was a documentary. It needs to be told the way it happened, without slow-motion-running-with-daughter scenes.
This is a difficult situation. Sure, he may have done those things on that very day and Ryan Coogler wants us to see as it occurred. The dramatization of these scenes in the film came off to me as clever constructions than organic developments. The problem is that these events are shown under the hood of being raw and real. If it was real, we wouldn’t see every mobile move of Oscar displayed on the screen – be it Calling Mom or Texting Marcus. Rather tawdry for a film that wants to be naturalistic in its treatment.
While I had equal problems with this film as much as praises, the final 10 minutes are nothing short of moving. This ending works even in isolation because it hits you hard, irrespective of what came before it. The first hour or so is indeed a good character study but it could have done with a better close for the characters, as it ultimately says nothing about these people.
The actors, especially Jordan and Spencer, portray these characters so convincingly, they lift it up to make Fruitvale Station a remarkable enterprise. It is a well-intentioned film and makes sure it leaves you physically shaken and emotionally stirred. It did not exactly reach greater heights for me, but this is a story that needed to be told and, more imperatively, demands to be seen.view less