By Eddie Burton (New Jersey)
One of the best films of 2013. Need I say more? Some critics complain that it doesn’t really teach anything new or bring up topics that haven’t been closely looked at or discussed but it doesn’t need to. It’s a tragic story that’s sadly true about Oscar Grant played by talented upcoming actor Michael B Jordon focusing on his tragic death at Fruitvale station and the events leading up to it. You see the entirety of the day he died. That was so smart on the writers part because this could’ve gone sour due to the fact that you weren’t able to feel sympathy for the characters and unable to relate to the characters. But you can. You can relate and feel sympathy for Oscar because as the movie unfolds, you get to know the character more and more. How humanistic he his. What he was to what he became. A punk in jail to a real man. A 22 year old man who has a girlfriend and daughter who lost his job yet won’t tell anyone and how he still gives money to friends and family. His temptation to sell weed again but fears he will end up where he was a year before. Every scene means something. Whether it be to help the story or character. Michael B Jordon is the perfect actor to play Oscar and his goal is to have Oscar connect with its audience. That’s what he does. In many ways this is a movie about nothing until the third act where the tragic death of Oscar took place.
The movie unfolds literally like an episode of FX show Louie. While there are drastic differences, the way its set up is practically word for word. It only focuses on one day but what many writers and directors don’t realize is that there are 24 hours in a day and a lot of writers and directors don’t use that fact to their advantage. Writer and director Ryan Coogler does. What he does do is not present Oscar as a perfect human being. He knows his limitations and the challenges he has to overcome.
The fact that it focuses on his death but that’s not what the movie shouldn’t be about. It shouldn’t be about tragedy. More about Oscar and who he was as a boyfriend, as a friend, as a son, and as a father. Ryan Coogler handles the movie with so much respect and risk not only showing Oscar in a good light all the time, but also showing that people make mistakes and us as human beings do idiotic things in the heat of the moment. But he also shows where Oscar was and how he matured, which makes his death all the more tragic. The movie is so realistic that you feel like you’re following Oscar around through the day. The actors show such passion to their roles and understand that this impacts a lot of people and that Oscar’s death has impact on a lot of people.
The movie is so good at creating moments without music, without the Hollywood touch sort of speak. Just letting a scene play out and leave it up to the audience on what they want to feel. For example, Oscar’s death scene is played out like, ok this tragedy happened. It happened, we can’t change it but how do you feel about it? I showed you what happened now what’s your opinion on it. The movie plays out like that. Not saying it’s entirely true. Some aspects of the story and plot I’m sure happened in his life, maybe not on the specific day he died, but I’m sure took place at, at least one point in his life.
Granted some scenes particularly Oscar’s death scene are hard to follow. There’s so much chaos, it’s tough to gather everything that’s happening. But again that was done by design. Ryan Coogler wants you to feel confused and uneasy because that’s how it happened. It was chaotic and no one there when Oscar died could gather what’s going on. While one problem is the fact that the cop that shot Oscar shot him when he was restrained by other officers on the ground without any interference by the people watching this transpire.
It’s never really explained why he shot him. I’m sure eventually the officer explained why he did but it’s not addressed here. It’s the question I had leaving the theater. Why did he shoot him when he was restrained? Was he scared? Was he racist? Could he simply not gather his emotions and pulled the trigger? Was it accidental? Never addressed, never explained but you could argue that it doesn’t need to be. But in all fairness to story and to both Oscar and the officer, I thought it should’ve been addressed for us the audience to possibly understand the cops position and what he was going through. Not justifying what he did, but being fair to him.
Despite that nitpick, and while there are other very small problems, like Oscar calling 8 people in 3 minutes, I thought was a little forced and just trying to introduce all the characters in a quick fashion, one of the very small problems. But this movie tells a tragic story and tells it well. The acting is great, the plot is paced well, and the characters are well developed and is on my list of top 10 best movies of the year.