Opening 1 May 2014
The wrong place, the wrong time, the wrong color. So much for “keep(ing) my baby safe.” San Francisco’s East Bay Fruitvale BART station is the final destination for Oscar (Michael B. Jordan) in the early hours of 2009. Rewind to early morning December 31st: the 22-year-old cuddles Sophina (Melonie Diaz), allows Tatiana (Ariana Neal) to climb into her parents’ bed, and sends Mom (Octavia Spencer) a birthday greeting. During the day, after dropping T at daycare and Phina at her job, Oscar’s mood turns pensive. Easy fixes ain’t gonna’ cut it anymore.
Writer/director Ryan Coogler admits taking some narrative license with his true-life chronicle of a police killing, albeit the holes in his story are barely noticeable. Obviously overlooked by contributors: Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART, not to be confused with local and state law enforcement) allowed Coogler to film his feature directorial debut on-site; his access to legal and court documents, and obtaining authentic videos from that night; Oscar’s family cooperated fully. Jordan’s phenomenal performance almost convinces us Oscar was that nice; Spencer as Oscar’s mother is equally noteworthy. Rachel Morrison’s cinéma vérité camerawork, Claudia Castello and Michael P. Shawver’s tight back-forth editing, and Ludwig Göransson’s music culminate when fates collide at the Fruitvale Station. Timely, engrossing, socially critical: an imperative reminder of one’s civic responsibilities. (Marinell Haegelin)