Movie Review: Fruitvale Station (2013)

I don’t have anything witty to put here. This movie broke me. Ummm… “Black Panther” out this Wednesday (or Friday), I guess.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Fruitvale Station”.

New Year’s Eve 2008. We follow Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) as he goes about his daily business, running into friends, family, and strangers along the way. And really it’s just a sort of look into the life of this young man. And it’s an incredibly interesting and highly affecting story we’re dealing with here. Very early on I found myself sucked into the story, but not because some grandiose event, but rather because of the realistic human drama that this movie portrays. There’s a lot of care given to how this plot is handled. Instead of it feelings like a very typical drama it feels more real, like you’re a fly on the wall in this man’s life. And I found myself truly invested in this plot. It’s engaging, interesting, and at times devastating.

The characters here are all fleshed out, interesting, and fairly realistic. Michael B. Jordan plays Oscar Grant, the young man at the center of this story. He is a person who has done some criminal things in his past, but he’s trying to put that stuff behind him. He’s generally a good guy who has taken some bad turns in his life, and he’s overall a very compelling character. And Michael B. Jordan is fantastic in the role. Then we have Melonie Diaz as Sophina, Oscar’s girlfriend. You can tell that she’s a bit annoyed by some of the things from Oscar’s past, but she still loves him and wants what’s best for him. She’s overall an interesting character. And Diaz is great in the role. Then we have Octavia Spencer as Oscar’s mom Wanda. She gets some powerful scenes in this and is pretty serious and worried about her son, but she does love him and she wants him to be a good person. And Spencer is of course fantastic in the role. Then we get to see people like Ahna O’Reilly, Ariana Neal, Trestin George, Kevin Durand, and many more in various supporting roles, all giving really solid performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Ludwig Göransson and I think he did a really good job with it. What’s interesting is that it isn’t very intrusive, staying more in the background almost more as ambient noise rather than a blaring score. But it also doesn’t disappear, as it’s still heard and often helps add some extra emotion to various scenes. There’s also a couple of licensed tracks used throughout and they work pretty well in their scenes.

This movie was written and directed by Ryan Coogler (which is why I alluded to the “Black Panther” release at the start), and he did a really good job with it. Remember the part where I said this felt more like a fly on the wall type of story rather than your typical Hollywood story? Yeah, the directing and camera work kind of adds to that argument. The camera work here is handheld and a little shaky, making it feel a bit like a documentary at times. It also adds a sense of realism to it (hence, fly on the wall) that made me feel even more invested in it all. There’s also a part in the movie where it manages to build a lot of tension in a way that got me even more engaged. No shootout. No car chase. Just pure dramatic tension created by the direction. It’s great.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 94% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 85/100. And on it has a score of 7,5/10.

“Fruitvale Station” is a stunning portrait of a very important day in this young man’s life. It has a great plot, really good characters, fantastic performances, great music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Fruitvale Station” is a 9,86/10. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Fruitvale Station” is now completed.

That’s one hell of a directorial debut.


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