Although he has a real-life story of relatively recent vintage to tell in Fruitvale Station – one that, in light of the Trayvon Martin killing and its frustrating aftermath, is enthrallingly relevant to our times – writer-director Ryan Coogler chooses to begin his exceptionally accomplished debut feature with a storytelling device that recalls, of all things, classic film noir of the 1940s and ‘50s.
Borrowing a page from such fatalistic melodramas as D.O.A., Detour and Double Indemnity, Coogler begins more or less at the end, when his lead character’s fate is irreversibly sealed. Then Coogler proceeds to detail the events that took his protagonist to this point, retracing his steps in such a way that – because we know what awaits him at the end – the journey feels less like a series of arbitrary incidents than a riveting progression toward a tragic inevitability.
For the makers of film noir, this sort of narrative structure served well to enhance the suspense as their anti-heroes were methodically undone by poor judgment, cruel coincidence, or both.
But Coogler has a different aim.
You can read the rest of my Fruitvale Station review here.