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Movie review: Fruitvale Station
Michael B. Jordan: it may not be a familiar name to you now, but it soon will be, for his star is most definitely in the ascendency.
Up to this point the young American actor has made a name for himself most notably in TV land; for instance he played teenage drug dealer Wallace in the first season of the phenomenal The Wire, as well as a longer stint more recently in the show Friday Night Lights as quarterback Vince Howard.
Hollywood is now a-calling however, and his fine work in this indie film won't do his career any harm at all.
2008 is slowly coming to an end and it's been a mixed bag of a year for Oscar Grant (Jordan). On the up side, he's as close as ever to his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz); they have a lovely daughter together and Oscar is seriously contemplating making a decent woman of Sophina and marrying her.
But then there's the down side. Two weeks before the end of the year and Oscar loses his job. He arrived late to his job in a supermarket just one too many times and he was let go. Still, he's fairly optimistic that the New Year will be good for him and his family. He's done some bad things in the past, and done his time for it too, but he's looking forward to a fresh start ahead.
With New Year's Eve fast approaching, he tells his mum that he's going to drive into the city for the fireworks with all of his friends. Knowing that there will no doubt be drinking involved, she suggests that perhaps it would be safer if they all took the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train instead. After some thought, Oscar believes that it's not a bad idea considering.
Despite the majority of commuters being in high spirits, Oscar and his friends run into some trouble on the BART that ends with none of them in the mood for celebrating.
Based on true events, director Ryan Coogler handles the material with just the right amount of sensitivity, which is pretty impressive for his directorial debut. His film has a pseudo documentary feel about it, as it's shot with a fair degree of realism. It's probably this technique however, that's also its downfall.
Coogler spends far too much time with the build up of events, particularly in just the simple day to day events in Oscar's life. It doesn't take much for an audience to get where Oscar is coming from, and yet Coogler keeps pouring the monotony on. And although he does well in teasing the events to come up front, it just takes too long a journey in getting there at the film's back end.
Jordan gives a strong account of himself though. He roots his performance very much in reality and is subtle in displaying flashes of his character's real-life charm. Better things are clearly ahead for him, including playing Johnny Storm/The Human Torch in next year's reboot (sigh) of The Fantastic Four, as well as starring in the rumoured Rocky spin-off Creed, playing Apollo Creed's grandson, teaming up once again with Coogler, who's down to direct. Hopefully this more fictional setting will allow them both the chance to pull no punches and come out swinging.
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