2013, 85 minutes
Review by Joshua Handler
Ryan Coogler's Fruitvale Station was a sensation at Sundance, winning both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award. It also just was named one of the top 10 American films released in 2013 by the American Film Institute. Fruitvale tells the true story of the last day of Oscar Grant's life. Grant was a young man in Oakland, CA who was fatally shot by police in a subway station on New Year's Eve. I was a big fan of the film when I saw it back in July (my original review here) but was not looking forward to a re-watch, partially because I was afraid it wouldn't hold up upon a second viewing and because it was such an emotional drain the first time. However, I was just curious enough to view the film again that I decided to watch the Blu-ray. To my surprise and delight, Fruitvale Station loses little impact upon a second viewing. The final third is almost as intense and emotionally draining as the first time, but this time, I was more invested in the characters during the first act than I was the first time.
Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, and Octavia Spencer are all strong, each giving a sympathetic performance that should make Jordan and Diaz stars. Fruitvale Station also proves that Spencer is still an actress to watch (she won an Oscar for The Help but hasn't been in much since). Her performance is heartbreaking and enormously likable. I'm thrilled she's been getting her due because she has a magnetic screen presence. The performances and writer/director Ryan Coogler's obvious passion for the material and natural talent make Fruitvale Station a must-see.
The new Blu-ray edition releasing tomorrow is gorgeous. Rachel Morrison's vivid 16mm cinematography looks crisp and beautifully rendered. This is the way to go if you're seeing Fruitvale Station for the first time - I don't even remember the movie looking this good at the screening I went to.
The special features on the disc include a Q&A with the cast and crew and a featurette on the life of Oscar Grant. The two special features frequently repeat each other and both are a bit tedious. But really, who is going to buy this Blu-ray for the special features? If you are a fan of Fruitvale Station and want to buy it, this Blu-ray is the way to go. This is a spectacular-looking edition of a remarkable film that everyone should see.