Senseless Death

Sundance award winner ‘Fruitvale Station’ plus new ‘Wolverine’ film

By Lori Hoffman
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jul. 31, 2013

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This publicity photo released by The Weinstein Company shows Michael B. Jordan, left, and Kevin Durand, right, in a scene from the film, "Fruitvale Station." (AP Photo/The Weinstein Company, Ron Koeberer)

Photo by AP

With the recent acquittal of George Zimmerman for the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida, the national release of the drama based on a similar case, Fruitvale Station, seems even more relevant.

The debut feature of 26-year-old Ryan Coogler, this well acted recreation of the final day in the life of Oscar Grant III (Michael B. Jordan) earned the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

Based on a national incident that echoes the Trayvon Martin case, Oscar Grant was a 22-year-old black man from Oakland, Calif., who was killed by a transit cop at Fruitvale Station in Oakland on January 1, 2009.

A big difference between the two cases is that the killing took place in front of dozens of witnesses and several of them filmed the event.

What we learn in the course of Grant’s final day is that he was no saint. He had a temper that could be unleashed at any moment, he spent time in jail (seen in flashback), he sometimes sold weed for extra cash, he loved his Mom (Oscar winner Octavia Spencer) and he was having relationship problems with his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz). However, despite their personal problems, the couple is devoted to their daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal).

This day in the life, shot on a small budget and often with hand-held cameras, is quite ordinary but that’s the point. Injustice can strike at any moment, especially with the volatile elements of a New Year’s night, cops on high alert because of the holiday and the panic that ensues when a fight starts on a subway train.

The real footage is shown in the movie and it suggests that the cops were overly aggressive, and that the officer who shot Grant was surprised when he heard the gun shot. We are told in the end credits that the officer thought he had grabbed his Taser, and was eventually convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

The performance by Jordan is authentic and convincing, and helps us stay engaged in a film that wants to be mundane until its explosive finale.

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