Having competed for the Camera D’Or (Cannes’ prestigious reward for first feature film), Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station is a fantastic debut. Already the winner of the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for US dramatic film at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, this first movie tells the true story of Oscar Grant, a young black man who was shot dead by a police officer on 31st December 2009 at the Fruitvale rapid transit station in San Francisco Bay.
Grant and Coogler would have been the same age today had Grant lived, and it is perhaps this empathy that brings about such an accomplished feature: all the ingredients of a great movie are present. Starting with a real clip of the shooting, a gunshot opens the film, which takes place as a fictionalisation of the day before the tragedy. Grant (Michael B Jordan) is no saint – he’s served time in prison, but he’s trying to be a better man for his wife (portrayed wonderfully by Melonie Diaz), his daughter and his mother (the vibrant Octavia Spencer).
With interesting creative choices, the director leads this outstanding cast through a clever and human picture whose audience is imprisoned throughout in the impending tragedy. With the help of flashbacks and text messages superimposed on the screen, the movie goes back and forth between a difficult past and an almost present, where events are fated to move too quickly.
Fruitvale Station is one of those movies you don’t want to end, and leaves us anticipating Coogler’s return with a new story to tell. A special bravo is due to the protagonist, Jordan, who delivers a powerful performance of contrasted toughness and tenderness.
During the last moments of his life, Grant missed the fireworks he was supposed to see with his friends and girlfriend, but through his story and Coogler’s eye, the audience has the chance to attend an unforgettable, sparkling cinematographic moment.
Fruitvale Station is released nationwide on 14th June 2014.