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The true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008.
For more about Fruitvale Station and the Fruitvale Station Blu-ray release, see Fruitvale Station Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 30, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Kevin Durand, Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz, Chad Michael Murray, Ahna O'Reilly
Director: Ryan Coogler
» See full cast & crew
Fruitvale Station Blu-ray Review
One of the most powerful films of recent times.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 30, 2014
Today's news headlines are too often littered with examples of the rise in police and law enforcement abuse of power. Frequently appearing are stories of excessive force, needless traffic stops, unwarranted searches and seizures, even de facto sexual assaults. Many don't even make the news while some are propelled to the top of the cycle, sometimes overblown, sometimes underplayed, sometimes reported on fairly and accurately. One of the more recent, most infamous, and most heartbreaking instances of police brutality centers on a young man named Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old father of one who was shot by a police officer and later died in the hospital. Fruitvale Station is Grant's story, following him throughout the day leading to his untimely and unnecessary demise. The picture featured prominently at several notable film festivals and found widespread acclaim. It's one of the most engaging and heart wrenching films of 2013, a must-see not only for its timely portrayal of overzealous police action but for its incredible depiction of life's frailty and man's journey through it, embodied in the last day of Oscar Grant's life.
Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) lives as best he can. His girlfriend Sophia (Melonie Diaz) and his daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal) are at the center of his life. His relationship with his daughter is strong, but his relationship with Sophia has hit a few bumps. He's unemployed, though not everybody in his circle knows he's unemployed after being fired from his grocery store job. He deals drugs on the side, has served time in prison, and is working to make his life the best his circumstances will allow. It's New Year's Eve, and he and Sophia have plans to travel to Frisco to view the fireworks. He plans on driving, but his mother Wanda (Octavia Spencer) urges him to take the train instead, fearing the traffic her son will encounter to and from the festivities. Her advice and his decision will push him towards a terrible destiny.
Fruitvale Station's best asset is its lead character portrayal. Oftentimes with cases like this, the victim is painted, particularly in the media, as nothing but a saint, the perfect individual living the perfect life that was ended far too soon. That's not the case here. Over the course of Grant's day, the picture portrays him as a very real person, a person with his own ups and downs, a person with a big heart but capable of going astray with the law and with his girlfriend. He lies, flirts, deals drugs, and has been fired from his grocery store job for a continued failure to show up. He's served time in prison, he has a short fuse, he's lived a hard life, and he's made plenty of bad choices. The film also shows the tenderness underneath, his unending love for his daughter, his desire to keep things on the up-and-up with his girlfriend, and a genuine want to be close to family, a family that in turn genuinely loves and cares for him. Fruitvale Station creates a fully convincing portrait of a man, an everyday man, a man who is neither fully perfect not fully imperfect, someone dealing with the struggles of life as best he can, struggles that can yield as many negative results as positive results. Before the shooting, it's a compelling snapshot of life, beautifully constructed and an amazing experience considering the ease by which it builds the characters and the world in which they live.
The audience, then, comes to know Grant on a deeper level than the film medium can normally portray, particularly in a movie that runs under ninety minutes. There's an incredible sense of authenticity to the world and an uncanny feel of longtime familiarity with the characters. That intimacy makes the tragedy all the more real and all the more painful. It's impossible to watch the film's final act without experiencing a wide array of emotions: hurt, fear, anger, uncertainty, and sympathy all rise to the surface in a very tangible way and directly from the heart. They're the sort of raw, unchecked emotions only real life can engender, and the film comes as close to breaking that barrier between reality and the recreation of reality as any movie ever has. It speaks to the fragility of life, how it can suddenly change in an instant, how decades of living -- the good and bad and everything in between that comes with living -- can lead one to a single moment when another life full of its own ups and downs and learned reactions and throughout processes can forever become intertwined for better or for worse, the latter, sadly, for Oscar Grant.
The picture is beautifully crafted in all areas. First-time director Ryan Coogler, who was awarded for his efforts at Cannes Film Festival and by a number of film circles, paints an absorbing, gritty portrait of life. He finds an intimacy in his characters and a first-person perspective with the handheld camera that pushes the audience closer to, and further into, Oscar Grant and his world. Through a single day, he constructs the character through showing him at his best and at his worst and by doing so builds a relatable connection to his audience that serves to heighten the sense of loss when the fatal shot is fired. Michael B. Jordan is spectacular as Oscar Grant. He, too, portrays him in the physical as Coogler does through the technical side of the film medium, effortlessly falling into character and grasping the emotional highs and lows of his day, and in many ways his entire life, throughout the course of the film. His is easily one of the finest performances of the year.
Fruitvale Station Blu-ray, Video Quality
Fruitvale Station's gritty 1080p transfer holds up well on Blu-ray. The picture quality hearkens back to the days before the ultra-clean digital realm, when there was more character to a film and less of a glossy, clean appearance. The grit and grain of the 16mm format provides a handsome texture that beautifully accentuates the film's tone and themes. Details, then, aren't quite so sharp as they appear in the slicker modern digital movies or even on 35mm film, yet the stability and raw texture of clothes, skin, and background accents both indoors and outdoors look marvelous. Likewise, colors aren't quite as bold as audiences growing more accustomed to digital might expect. However, the palette is well defined across the board, from bland earthen shades and background textures to brighter hues seen on clothes and other assorted items. The transfer doesn't suffer from any excess of unwanted anomalies. Black levels are firm, and flesh tones appear natural. This is an excellent picture quality release; here's hoping more modern films are shot in a similar manner.
Fruitvale Station Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Fruitvale Station features a full, well-defined DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack. There's terrific power pushing through the stage when the sound of the train is heard at film's start, filling the listening area with a side-to-side heavy whoosh that sets a foreboding tone for the rest of the film. Some of the Hip Hop musical bass heard from Oscar Grant's car is tight and deep, potent and heavy and rattly but not unkempt or falling into a series of vibrations. There's some excellent supportive ambience throughout the picture. City street din and the background sound effects of a calming beachside spot are perfectly integrated and presented with excellent spacing and just the right level of surround support. Dialogue enters the stage from the center channel with firm, natural clarity and volume. This is an excellent all-around soundtrack from Anchor Bay.
Fruitvale Station Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Fruitvale Station contains two supplements of high value.
Fruitvale Station Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Fruitvale Station is a powerful, heart-wrenching film that's beautifully authentic and unbelievably tragic. It exposes a soul not often found in cinema, building a story and characters so rich and lifelike that audiences will feel like they've known them, have loved them, even, their entire lives. That realism only increases the hurt that comes with the final act. It's a remarkable movie watching experience and one of the finest films of 2013. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray release of Fruitvale Station features superb video and audio. A few extras are included. Very highly recommended.
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Fruitvale Station Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Fruitvale Station Blu-ray - November 21, 2013
Anchor Bay and The Weinstein Company will release on Blu-ray Ryan Coogler's Fruitvale Station (2013), starring Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, and Kevin Durand. The release will be available for purchase online and in stores across the nation ...
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