You know where this train is going before it leaves the station: the film opens with cell-phone footage of BART officers subduing a young black man who does not appear to require subduing. Then you hear a shot. The young black man was 22-year-old Oscar Grant, and Fruitvale Station is the story of his last day on Earth: December 31, 2008. Writer-director Ryan Coogler keeps the tone even, the pace steady, and the drama unforced: he knows what he's got is powerful, and he doesn't need to overplay. Grant (played with great charisma by Michael B. Jordan) has a lot going for him: intelligence, good intentions, loving family, loving girlfriend, loving daughter. But he's also unemployed, dishonest, hot-tempered, and a two-time loser who made some enemies in San Quentin. In short, a human being. But in the end, none of that mattered. With Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz. (2013) — Matthew Lickona
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