Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fruitvale Station

Based on a true story, Fruitvale Station offers a single day slice-of-life look at the life of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) on the day he was killed by a police officer (Kevin Durand) at a subway station on New Year's Eve. Writer/director Ryan Coogler offers one of most emotional films of 2013 showcasing Oscar's trouble staying on the straight and narrow, holding down a job, and doing right by his girlfriend (Melonie Diaz), mother (Octavia Spencer), and daughter (Ariana Neal) all while leading up to the final few minutes of his life.

Despite an 85-minute running time Fruitvale Station has issues filling the film with sequences from Grant's unremarkable final day. Although it offers flashbacks to Oscar's time in prison to explain his relationship to his mother we get very little of the rest of his life prior to this day. The movie also has several filler sequences of Oscar driving around the city which feel included only to boost the running time closer to a feature-length 90 minutes.

I'll give credit for Coogler in getting the best out of his actors and presenting a compelling tale of the final few hours of Oscar Grant's life. The scenes following the shooting are emotionally brutal led by a strong performance by Octavia Spencer who is as afraid of Oscar's friends seeking some kind of retribution as she is at loosing her son.

Fruitvale Station is an emotionally-powerful film that I think could have benefited from not spending quite so much time portraying its character as a reformed saint simply in the wrong place at the wrong time (while leaving out important facts about the shooting that don't match its message) and spent more time offering a fully-rounded look at Grant's life. Even with these complaints, the film is still definitely worth viewing especially for the the performances of Jordan and Spencer and the emotionally devastating final minutes that will stay with you long after the credits roll.

Available on both DVD and Blu-ray, extras include a pair of featurettes on the making of the film and an interview with cast and crew following a screening of the film in Oakland. The Blu-ray includes a copy of the film on DVD and an Ultraviolet digital copy of the movie as well.

[Anchor Bay, Blu-ray $39.99 / DVD $29.98]

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