On December 31st, 2008, Oscar Grant woke with a sense of purpose. An ex-con looking to build a legitimate life for himself, Grant decided to take his girlfriend out to meet up with friends and watch the New Years Eve fireworks. Unfortunately for Grant and his entire community, a chance encounter on a train would lead to a terrible tragedy at Fruitvale Station.

Fruitvale Station is the first feature film helmed by young director Ryan Coogler. The movie stars possible future Johnny Storm Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle), Octavia Spencer (The Help), and Melonie Diaz (Be Kind Rewind).

Fruitvale Station garnered a good deal of buzz at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, after which the Weinstein Company acquired the film for a hefty sum. This preview doesn’t exactly show what spurred the fevered purchase, but it does display a good deal of dramatic promise. Jordan is a subtly likable and charismatic actor, and it looks as if his take on Grant will be more layered than a simple hagiography of a martyr.

The Grant case is one of the most controversial and tragic incidents in recent US history. As such, it’s natural that filmmakers would be drawn to the story. The only worry therein is that a film based on the incident might drop into heavy-handed moralization, stripping any ambiguity from the proceedings. Fortunately, the trailer’s confident shot-work and sense of nuanced characterization indicate that it might possibly do the case justice – and could even be the strong opening shot of Coogler’s feature film career.

–––

Fruitvale Station will enter a limited theatrical run on July 12th, 2013.