Michael B. Jordan’s career is one I’ve watched closely, firstly as the tragic kid, Wallace, on the first season of The Wire, before achieving regular roles on two other critically acclaimed naturalistic TV shows, Friday Night Lights and Parenthood. He’s one of the finest young actors you’ve (probably) never heard of and as far as I’m concerned, it’s only a matter of time before he wins an Oscar, if not for this role then something more high profile which will surely come soon. Fruitvale Station is the best film of the year so far and debutant writer/director Ryan Coogler deserves a huge amount of credit for such an accomplished piece.
Based on a true story, the film chronicles a short amount of time in the life of Oscar, a young man in his early 20s. He’s a loving father of a little girl, still together with the mother despite their difficulties and trapped by mistakes made in his teenage years from which he struggles to escape. Jordan completely embodies Oscar’s life, a loving and troubled individual, played with the utmost authenticity. Wonderful supporting roles from Octavia Spencer (Oscar’s mother) and Melonie Diaz (his girlfriend) produce a realistic onscreen family, full of soft and hard edges. Coogler’s careful pacing is a masterstroke. Every scene no matter how mundane on the surface is absorbing, from Oscar taking his daughter to school, to his trip to his old workplace, a supermarket, demanding his old job back. Scenes take their time to breathe and unfold with only the most necessar
y dialogue, all captured by the wonderful graininess that’s created by shooting on film.
The final act leaves behind the sort of numbness I’ve rarely felt in the cinema. Every other film nowadays is ‘based on a true story’, this one really feels like the true story. Fruitvale Station strikes a remarkable balance between feeling socially realistic and emotionally striking. Its important commentary on police brutality becomes neither primary nor secondary to the film’s narrative, but stands hand in hand with an absorbing depiction of a young life, lost.
Review by David Rank
Fruitvale Station is out now in the US and does not yet have a UK release date . Running time 85 mins.