First ‘Fruitvale Station’ Trailer Details a Deadly Night in Oakland

Mark Deming
Movie Talk
Michael B. Jordan in 'Fruitvale Station'
Michael B. Jordan in 'Fruitvale Station'

"Fruitvale Station" has already become one of the most acclaimed independent films of 2013, and the new trailer for the film's upcoming theatrical release suggests this is a movie that will be both controversial and an emotionally powerful experience.

"Fruitvale Station" is based on the true-life story of Oscar Grant, a young man from Oakland, California who lost his life at the hands of police on New Year's Day 2009, and the new trailer gives a sympathetic but unglamorous portrait of a man struggling to do the right things in what turn out to be the last hours of his life.
Watch the exclusive trailer for 'Fruitvale Station':

As the trailer opens, Oscar (played by Michael B. Jordan, of "Red Tails" and the TV series 'Friday Night Lights") and his friends are on board the BART mass transit train on New Year's Eve, checking out the New Year's Eve fireworks and having a great time. But things quickly turn grim as a police officer walks by a stopped train, shouting into his radio, "Shots fired near Fruitvale."

As confusion reigns, we cut back to events earlier in the day. It seems like a pretty ordinary day in Oakland – Oscar drops his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz) off at work as they make plans for the evening, he picks up his young son from the playground, and he stops by a grocery store to ask for his old job back, to no avail. (The trailer avoids mentioning Oscar has recently been released from prison).

It looks like Oscar is considering dealing marijuana to make money for his family, and he confesses to Sophina, "I want to start over fresh, but it ain't working out." But as Oscar prepares to head out for the evening with his friends, he sets aside his worries, reassures his young son that the noises outside are just firecrackers, and says he'll be back soon. But just as Oscar is about to leave, his mother (Octavia Spencer, an Oscar-winner for "The Help") suggests, "Why don't you take the train out there? That way you guys can hang out and you don't have to worry about anything."

A friendly conversation aboard the BART is overheard by a man who has a score to settle with Oscar, and a scuffle breaks out. Soon cops are dragging Oscar and his friends off the train, and they tell everyone to put away their phones as onlookers start snapping pictures of the altercation.

A series of quick cuts indicate the confusion of both the police and the onlookers, and the faces of Sophina and the passengers makes it clear something has gone terribly wrong while Oscar, obviously terrified, struggles to reassure himself, saying "I'm good, I'm good, I'm good, I'm gonna be good, we're gonna be good …" The trailer comes to a close as a BART train rumbles through an Oakland neighborhood and the hip-hop track playing on the soundtrack repeats the phrase, "It's now or never."

Early reviews of "Fruitvale Station" have cited the film's realistic atmosphere and Michael B. Jordan star-making performance, and both shine through in these two minutes of footage. As seen in the trailer, Oscar Grant is no saint as portrayed by Jordan, but he's also a man with some genuine decency before the night takes him down a path of dangerous misunderstandings.

The real-life Oscar Grant was a 22-year-old man who was shot and killed by police in Oakland, California in the early hours of New Year's Day 2009. Footage recorded by an observer with a cell phone showed Grant was was unarmed, subdued and not resisting arrest when the officer drew his gun and fired, and the incident led to a firestorm of controversy in California.

Independent filmmaker Ryan Coogler was inspired to make a film about the man behind the angry debate, and "Fruitvale Station" became his first feature film. "Fruitvale" (as it was originally titled) earned both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, and has been selected for screening at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival. The Weinstein Company bought the distribution rights to the film, and "Fruitvale Station" is scheduled to go into limited release in theaters July 12, 2013.