Fruitvale Station tells the story of Oscar, a 22-year-old African American. It follows him on the fateful date of December 31st, 2008. Based on true events, the film follows this seemingly typical day from start to finish.
I couldn’t connect with Oscar as a lead character. He’s a very flawed human being, but he’s trying to do the right things and sometimes life gets in the way of making the right choice. That theme of choice is at the heart of Fruitvale Station. There are a lot of “what if” moments that are sure to haunt Oscar’s friends and families long afterwards, but, as the movie shows, one can never know what will happen in a single day.
I am deliberately being vague, but if you’ve seen the trailer, you know what’s going to happen in this one. Hell, the opening of the movie is the footage that popped up online of the incident. To be honest, I didn’t remember the news story that this film is based on until the events started happening on-screen; that’s when everything clicked, and I remembered my reaction to the real footage, and so on.
That’s one huge credit I can give to the director, Ryan Cooglar. He could have done so many different things, made personal statements, shown what he felt should have or might have happened, but what he does instead is perfectly re-create the incident from start to finish. There is no zoom in to anything, or any pretense behind the dialogue. It just plays out “perfectly”.
Admittedly, I wasn’t very interested as the climax approached. And then Oscar stepped out of the train. At that exact moment, I was instantly enthralled, sitting there on the edge of my seat, taking in every second that unfolded. As the final two-minutes came into play, I suddenly realized I was emotionally invested, and by the final shot I was near tears.
I’m an emotional person in general, but the acting and cinematography hit me right where they were aiming the whole time. That final shot did me in with its stark, white, cold feel. After that shot we’re told what happened in the real case, which is something I actually never followed up on.
Fruitvale Station is a top contender for my top ten of 2013, and if it’s playing near you, you need to go out and see it. There are some really strong performances to be found here, Cooglar handles his first feature-length film incredibly well.