Perhaps one of the lesser known films regarding police brutality due to its low budget and indie status is Ryan Coogler‘s Fruitvale Station. Before you ask: yes, that’s the guy who directed Black Panther.
Prior to the Marvel mega-hit however, he brought us this much smaller movie based on the events of a true story that unfolded in Oakland, California in 2009. Named after the BART station in which the most important parts of the narrative take place, Fruitvale Station shows us the life of a 22 year old man named Oscar Grant throughout the 24 hours before his untimely death. Coogler takes the time to lay out the complexity of Grant’s life; how he was fired from his job for being late, how he cared so deeply for his mother, girlfriend, and daughter, how he touched the life of everyone he ever met, and how he was simply living his life before a police officer unlawfully murdered him in cold blood.
Though this isn’t necessarily the best or most flashy movie I’ve viewed regarding these issues, it is still extremely compelling, and a story that absolutely needs to be heard. The sadness of it is, this was not an isolated incident, and stories just like this one are still a reality of day to day life, so it’s pivotal that you keep that in the back of your mind while you watch these events unfold.
Michael B. Jordan acts the pants off this role and only confirms the idea that Oscar was an actual sweetheart who did not deserve to die. He was kind and sensitive and funny, a loving father and son… Knowing all of this intimate information only makes you empathise even more, and Jordan takes on the hefty role with grace and accuracy. He’s not the only one, either. Octavia Spencer comes at you like a punch in the gut at the movie’s conclusion. The entire movie is overtly emotive, but the last 10 minutes will get you because of her performance. She is a powerhouse, and if you don’t feel anything at all whilst watching her pour her heart out, then that should set your sociopath alarm bells off instantly.
Coogler – who also wrote the script – shows off his fantastic direction here too. The choice to storyboard this across 24(ish) hours is perfect; one can only assume that this depiction is extremely accurate, and really lends a hand into making sure that the audience gets as close to the truth as possible.
My overwhelming feeling after watching this one? Wow, the police are such trash. When will people learn that if you want to police a nation in which you can just wave guns around the place that they must have the proper training? And can someone please explain to me what this kneeling on the neck thing is? How in the world did this become something officers were taught to do? It has become apparent over the last week or so that many are calling for the police force to be disbanded altogether, but adequate training at least would be better than nothing.
Again, although this isn’t exactly the thrill ride that comes with Black Panther, and doesn’t come with the gravitas of a Martin Luther King Jr. speech like in Selma, this is another movie that is not to be missed. It’s a nicely shot, well-made, low budget true story drama. And, maddeningly, it’s still relevant.
Fruitvale Station is available to stream on Netflix in the UK.
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