In 2009 on New Year’s Day, Oscar Grant was on his way home taking the BART Subway train after ringing in the New Year. After a reported fight police responded pulling several people off of the subway train and placing them against a wall. Oscar Grant had the misfortune of being one of those men. As Oscar was sitting on the ground seemingly giving no resistance, with no weapons and his hands in the air, police began forcing him face down on the ground. As one officer places his knee on Mr. Grant’s head, a second officer kneeling on his back reaches for his firearm, stands up, and fires a single shot into Oscar Grant’s back. Seen by many and recorded by dozens of camera phones, it’s quite obvious the officers involved realize immediately that a terrible mistake has just been made. Later the officer that fired the shot claimed that he thought he was reaching for his Taser when of course he grabbed his pistol. Oscar Grant was pronounced dead at the hospital several hours later.
Having previously seen the footage of this murder I became interested when I heard about a film being made based on the real man, Oscar Grant. The film depicts his last 24 hours of life before that fateful moment. It also delves a bit into the man’s past, showing off a checkered history involving prison time. I think the point to showing his past was that the film wanted to show a real man, someone who is flawed and most certainly imperfect. It was to also show that people can change and it seemed like Oscar Grant truly was on the path to bettering his own life as well as his girlfriend’s and his daughter’s by trying to leave the life of crime behind him. He had the opportunity to make easy money by selling narcotics, but at the risk of being sent to jail after promises he made to family and friends to never go back. He especially didn’t want to leave his little girl, Tatiana Grant, who never understood the first time he went to prison; certainly a second trip to jail would be too difficult.
One of the most powerful aspects of this story are the moments leading up to the shooting, essentially the first part of the film. It almost creates a sense of helplessness as you see events unfold all pushing him to an untimely death. You want him to change his plans for New Year’s but in the end all you can do is watch the tragedy happen. It all sort of seems pointless in a way; all the effort Oscar puts in to stay on a straightened path, to get an honest 9-5 job and be a normal citizen who wants nothing more than to provide for his family. You see all this and you just know… you know what fate has in store for this man and all his efforts of trying to get a job that day or his stress over lack of money all seem futile, because in the end it was.
On the other end of the spectrum ts shows how much he loved his family, and the last moments he spent with them were special and remembered by those he left behind. It was his mother’s birthday the day before the shooting and so a party happened with family and friends; it was, little did they know, their last celebration with Oscar. It sort of acts as a bit of comfort to show that he at least had one last day with everyone before he died.
The performances are wonderful, with Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant. In his first lead role he certainly showed that he is more than capable of bringing not only serious moments to the screen but funny ones as well. I would like to think his performance made Mr. Grant’s family proud. Director Ryan Coogler makes his feature film debut with this and he did a great job bringing the story to the screen. What I liked so much about the film is that it really feels as though the audience is getting a peek into this man’s final hours. Nothing feels exaggerated or over the top; it just tries to maintain a sense of honesty by not to interfering with the story. Coogler had a subject matter and he displayed it with a take it or leave it kind of attitude, almost as if to say, “I know this isn’t pretty, but it is what it is and I want to tell it to you.”
Rated R For: some violence, language throughout and some drug use
Run Time: 85 minutes
After Credits Scene: None
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Durand, Ariana Neal
Directed By: Ryan Coogler
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting: 4.5/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 3
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls
Click HERE for the trailer!