This American film is based on the true story of Oscar Grant (Michael Jordan), who was killed by a police bullet fired at the Fruitvale Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Station, in Oakland, California, US.
His death occurred during the morning of New Year's Day, 2009. Criminal charges were laid and the officer in question was jailed.The movie was awarded Best First Film at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
The film begins dramatically with archival, live footage of two BART Police Officers beating Oscar on the subway platform of Fruitvale Station shortly before the shot that was fired that ended his life. The film switches immediately to the events that led up to his tragic death, and depicts in detail the life he lived in Oakland among his own community. The film ends with live footage of his grieving daughter, Tatiana.
The Director of the movie (Ryan Coogler) dwells on Oscar's daily routines and actions. He depicts Oscar as an ordinary human being living in Oakland, and shows him as a black youth caught in tragic circumstances. The movie indicates racial provocation in his killing, but racism is not the movie's main thrust.
The film has many special moments. The performance of Michael Jordan is outstanding, as is that of his mother, Wanda (Octavia Spencer). Especially moving is the moment where Wanda, the matriarch of Oscar's black community, prays for Oscar to survive the bullet that pierced his lung. Oscar's girlfriend, Sophina (Melonie Diaz), is excellent in her portrayal of the sudden, shocked awareness that Oscar is near to death.
This film is somewhat akin in style to the movies of Ken Loach which typically explore social issues in the UK in a natural and intimate way. It conveys the same realistic attempt to promote insights about the social and human factors that impact on the lives of deserving people.
This film is absorbing to watch as events unfold slowly, and with considerable tension, on the last day of Oscar's life, and its drama is charged emotionally. The taking of Oscar's life was a senseless act and Michael Jordan captures brilliantly the futility of what happened. He plays Oscar as an individual we get to really know and like, and the movie avoids the trap of sentimentalising the events which surrounded him. The hand-held camera work, and the spontaneity of the acting, serve to reinforce the authenticity of what occurred.
It is acted superbly, directed very movingly with compassion, and is highly compelling.
- Peter Sheehan, ACOFB
Starring Michael Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz, Chad Michael Murray, and Kevin Durand. Directed by Ryan Coogler. Rated M (Violence, coarse language and drug use). 85 min.