Fruitvale Station will not make many people’s lists as the feelgood film of the summer – it’s a semi-fictional account of the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, the troubled young black man who was mortally wounded by a transit police officer on an Oakland BART platform in 2009. Director Ryan Coogler’s debut movie opens with actual grainy cell phone footage, taken by bystanders, of the chaotic moments leading to Grant’s shooting after a melee had erupted on a train full of New Year’s Eve revelers.
Yet the story remains a powerfully optimistic work that shows Grant (Michael B. Jordan), in his last day alive, coming to terms with his criminal past as a small-time drug dealer. We watch as he tries to move his life in a new direction and become a better husband and father. And, despite Grant’s recurring moments of explosive personal confrontations, Coogler’s film knows when to pull back and take a restrained,