DRAMA; 1hr 25min
STARRING: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer
Living the American nightmare: Jordan
Oscar Julius Grant III’s life ended on January 1, 2009, after he was shot in the early hours of the morning by a transit policeman at Fruitvale railway station in Oakland, California. He was 22. Film-maker Ryan Coogler’s debut plunges into a round trip through one day in Oscar’s world, presenting him as a well-intentioned and caring partner (to Diaz’s Sophina) and father of his little girl (Ariana Neal). His life isn’t smooth sailing: Oscar (empathically played by Jordan) has done time and having lost his supermarket job, the clock is ticking on going straight. Yet even when bristling like a cornered beast in prison or strutting it out on the streets, he’s loved by those around him for his do-right instincts (Spencer is his mama hen, Wanda).
Coogler’s screenplay is a solid endorsement, with an immediacy and flow that puts the textures of Oscar’s life in poignant perspective. His New Year’s Eve starts out mellow at Wanda’s birthday dinner, later exploding into a barbaric fracas that leaves innocent victim Oscar cut down on a station platform. The random insanity is an indictment and a warning: earmarked by appearances, Oscar could be any mother’s son.