There are no spoilers in 'Fruitvale Station.' Ryan Coogler's debut film, which won prestigious awards at both the Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals, opens with the actual cellphone camera footage of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old black man, who was pulled off a BART train in Oakland, CA after reports of a scuffle. Late night rowdiness and nervous police officers quickly devolved into chaos and the next thing you know Grant, already in custody, gets a bullet in his back from close range.
With the shot still ringing in our ears, the movie rewinds 24 hours to share with us the joys and struggles of Grant's last day on Earth. It's not a subtle film, but it's an emotional one. The weaknesses during certain moments of the script are more than compensated for by the remarkable performances of Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz and Octavia Spencer. What's key to the film's success is how the three roles you've seen a thousand times before – the troubled young man, the baby mama and the suffering mother – are spun to ensure that this isn't just another tale from the hood.