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Not many films can take a gritty subject, tell it in a series of harsh flashbacks, film it with a bleak landscape and make it work. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu accomplishes this great task with the help of immensely talented actors like Naomi Watts, Sean Penn and Benicio Del Toro. Del Toro is frightening as the hard edged born-again Christian who accidentally commits the worst of crimes. Watts is heartbreaking as the victim who buries her sorrows in drugs and alcohol. Penn excels in subtly as the man who receives Watts deceased husbands heart and falls in love with her. It's almost too much emotion to take in at once. All three actors are at their peak and Inarritu plays them off eachother without pretense or falsehood. Each character is decisively different yet all have one horrible thing in common. Inarritu tells this tale in an original, highly edited manner with flashbacks and foreshadowing that never confuses. The film is actually amazingly interesting in its ability to keep scenes tight and emotions as raw as possible. It is a rare achievement and this film would have received more accolades if the material were simply more upbeat. That's a tragedy in itself.
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on May 31, 2004
I know this movie has great acting. I am NOT arguing that fact. However, the chronology is a spaghetti of backwards threads. Tom Clancy is a master of telling stories with many intricate threads masterfully woven into a COHERENT master story. This is a case study in bad editing. I wanted to enjoy this movie and its actors. I kept searching for a theme to follow. I was utterly disappointed. The story is told backwards. How can you develop a character backwards? I wanted to feel for these characters. I wanted to understand these characters emotions and motivations. I was lost from the very beginning. I remained interested - guessing that the director was soon going to reveal the main theme. Nope. The movie is a dramatic well-acted flop. Do not waste your money. 2 stars only for acting. ZERO stars to the editing choices!
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on June 10, 2004
...especially compared to the director's previous film, the instant classic "Amores Perros" ("Love is a bitch").
It feels like an inferior recycling of the first film in both themes and narrative technique, just without the sparkling freshness, originality, and effortless flow.
Al Pacino, Naomi Watts, and Benecio Del Toro are all world-class actors but they don't have much to work with here.
Oh well, I guess this is what they call the "sophomore slump."
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on July 28, 2017
Bilingual, can we have the french voice with this movie ?!
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on June 1, 2004
For those who saw Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's first hit movie, rough and hectic "Amores Perros", will find his fragmented jigsaw style -- this time in an even more scattered fashion -- familiar. "21 Grams" is a more intimate and even darker and more depressing drama, with very few things positive in it, message-wise or otherwise -- save the superb acting performances of the three leads. Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro are especially convincing as the grieving mother and widow on the verge of re-falling deep into drug web and the thief-turned-religious man. The profound tragedy of theirs has its repercussions which involve another man (Sean Penn). Filmed as if with an amateur camera, "21 Grams" is not as enthralling as it could be, which is rather good in a weird way, since any more emotional involvement in the film might turn often a difficult watch for a viewer to something unbearable. There is a lot of good films about human nature (and probably better than this one) out there, but go for it if you like great acting.
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on February 26, 2004
Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu received an Academy Award nomination for his first film, Amores Perros, in which three short stories were linked by a devastating road accident. Once again, with "21 Grams", like the first film written by Guillermo Arriaga, several lives are linked by a devastating accident. Here though the stories of the individual characters are much more interconnected than they were in the previous film.
Who are those characters? Well there's Sean Penn as college professor Paul Rivers, who is suffering from heart failure and will soon die unless a heart transplant can be found. There's the professor's wife Mary (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg) who has problems conceiving, but who wants to have an operation so she can conceive his child by artificial insemination if he does die. Cristina Peck (Naomi Watts) is a woman who was previously addicted to drugs but who's managed to put her life in order since marrying architect Michael (Danny Huston) and giving birth to two daughters. And there are the ex-convict Jack Jordan (Benicio Del Toro) and his wife Marianne (Melissa Leo). Jack has found religion, and his new sense of belief is helping him to go straight and raise their two children, even if it does at times have a less than positive effect on his parenting skills.
All these are fragile lives, and all of these main characters are walking on thin ice. Some are more aware of it than others until a tragic accident makes it all too clear to everyone just how thin that ice is. It also connects them all in new and even tragic ways. I really don't want to give too much of the plot away, because piecing it together is much of the joy of the film. It's also much of the challenge, because - as with Amores Perros - Inarritu doesn't present the story in chronological order.
The first image we see is Paul naked on the bed and watching Christina as she sleeps. Chronologically this occurs long after the accident that brings them together. Then we move on to sequences in which he is near to death, then apparently healthier, then wandering hopelessly and breathlessly in a desert-like landscape with a gun in his hand. At times, you have little more to guide you with regard to the chronology than the physical characteristics of the characters, including facial hair.
As with Amores Perros, Inarritu once again adopts a deliberately grainy and unglamorous shooting style, which is - as before - provided by cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto. You don't appear in an Inarritu film if you have a trace of physical vanity. Naomi Watts looked glamorous and stunning in "Mulholland Drive". In 21 Grams no one gets that chance. Make-up is minimal, lighting is often much less than flattering.
In some ways I preferred "21 Grams" to "Pulp Fiction", which also consisted of short stories put together out of chronological order. One reason for that preference was the grungier reality of Inarritu's visuals, and the fact that they contrasted in interesting ways with the overall complexity of the story.
Sometimes - it has to be said - in both films, the anti-chronological structure, the grungy cinematography, and the excellence of the performances, does cover what could easily be melodramatic excess. If the story of "21 Grams" were told straightforwardly with less powerful actors, it could almost be an over the top TV soap-opera.
The performances are a large part of what makes the film so stunning. All of the main actors excel. Several of them won awards at the 2003 Venice International Film Festival - Sean Penn receiving Best Actor, and Benicio Del Toro and Naomi Watts receiving the Audience Awards for Best Actor and Actress. Penn gives a very different performance here than he did in "Mystic River", although this film contains some elements of that one, and even of "The Crossing Guard" and "In the Bedroom". Naomi Watts has been nominated for a thoroughly deserved Academy Award (which she probably won't get) for Best Actress, and del Toro nominated for Best Supporting Actor. "21 Grams" also contains a powerful cameo from Clea DuVall as Christina's younger sister.
So why is it called 21 Grams? Well that's said by some to be the weight of the human soul. Inarritu is examining what happens to individuals when confronted by events beyond their control, and asking questions about birth, love, death and religion. It's a gripping film and one with strong themes. Well worth a viewing, but I warn you that it does demand active participation on the part of the viewer.
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on March 21, 2004
Please don't let the 2 stars mislead you. They are in reference to the DVD only. Universal Studios, for some reason, felt it in their best interest to deprive the consumer of two "extras" which should have been on the DVD including a "making-of featurette". Yet they seem to have no issues with forcing the viewer to sit through 10 minutes of previews before the main menu even appears. The only way to bypass these annoyances is to fast forward through them which is a major hassle and still takes some time. Why these "major" studios still feel it their duty to foist these previews upon us is easily seen: To sell more movies. Universal, you are a big fat joke. Perhaps some day, the Criterion Collection will give this film the treatment it deserves.
The film itself is quite good. And if the film and dark story don't do it for you, the cast will. The performances of the 3 stars are first rate. I recommend renting this and waiting to see if the money grubbing thieves at Universal will one day relent and allow us the pleasure of a proper DVD viewing experience.
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on April 16, 2004
21 grams is the kind of movie that makes you contemplate your own life and existence, and forces you to ponder the the meaning and interconnectedness of life itself.
The movie sports a not-too complicated and jaw-droppingly ironic plot. The death of a man and his two children brings the lives of 3 people together in an odd and tragic turn of events. The really unique thing about the movie I felt was the way in which it was shot. Scenes from the movie are not only displayed out of chronological order, but scattered throughout the length of the movie in a seemingly random order. This was sheer briliance. It's also why you might find the plot a little hard to follow and a bit confusing at first. You'll constantly be asking which one was that, who was that guy, what just happened, where did that come from. For me this served two purposes: one it kept the movie very interesting and in deed captivating from begining to end (the movie would probably have felt more slow and dry if done traditionaly), two it almost seems like a metaphor for life. An illustration of what the movie is all about and trying to say. Sequences of scenes often make no sense untill later on, just as in life you often dont understand what happened untill looking back and connecting all the dots. Also the constant feeling of confusion and randomness does well to push the point that life just seems to happen and no one really knows what's going on or what's connected.
The style of the shooting also does a great job of making you feel as if you arent watching a movie, but rather are just witnessing glimpses of moments of the actual lives of these people, scattered and momentarily incoherent untill finally we see how it's all connected. This really was fantastic I thought and very effective.
The emotional impact is also extremely noteworthy. The movie studies how odd the events in life are, and how cruel life can be. Grief is one of the prime components of the film and the examination of how every action in the world bares a reaction. The events in the movie will often leave you just sitting there silent looking at the screen with a knot in your gut. Anyone who has experienced pain and loss will relate in a most personal way.
The acting for this film was also excellent throughout. The whole cast did a great job, and the performances are not just believable but inspired.
Most of all 21 grams pushes the point that we are all just kind of floating along through life, bumping into each other and being either victim or benefactor to a never ending line of factors that are beyond our control. is it fate, destiny, or the plan of some divine diety that puts us where we are, or is the universe just meaningless and we are all merely billiard balls randomly bumping into one another. 21 Grams examines, but offers no real answer to all these questions, and will at very least provide for some interesting conversation afterwards.
If you're the type of person who likes phillosophy, or enjoys a well-done artistic movie about life that really makes you think, then this movie is for you.
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on May 24, 2004
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Cast: Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Benicio Del Toro, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Clea Duvall.
Running Time: 125 minutes.
Rated R for violence, language, sexual sitations, and drug use.
As with films such as "Mulhouland Drive" and "Requiem for a Dream", this somber, intense film will be disturbing and unenjoyable for some, while profound, amazing, and powerful for others. Director Iñárritu succeeds at creating a dark, unique film that does not present itself in chronological order, but scatters the film's main plot points throughout, only for the final puzzle to be revealed in an extremely metaphoric last question.
Sean Penn gives his second-best performance of the year (his explosive role in "Mystic River" earned him his first Oscar win) as a terminally-ill heart patient who is in search of a transplant. Benicio Del Toro stars as the convict-turned Jesus freak who has proclaimed his life to God, only to be a part of the culprit of a misfortunate accident. Naomi Watts gives her best performance to date as the grief-stricken woman who has tragically lost her family due to a traffic accident, only to find hope in the most unique and surprising of individuals.
The horrific twist of fate and the events proceeding the tragic accident is magically scripted, placed specifically in certain places so the film is more beautiful and enigmatic. "21 Grams" is a portrayal of how one event can change everything for three individuals, the emotional roller-coaster that tragedy brings to all of its victims, and questions the very reason for the existence of mankind. It is not a film to be embraced by all; it is a motion picture that some will understand and some will shun--but for those who truly enjoy film at its distinct, resounding finest--"21 Grams" is a visual (not very auditory, for there is not much presence of a musical score) experience that will tear at the heart, overwhelm the mind, and interrogate the soul. The best of its kind--if it fits into a genre--since "Memento".
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on July 9, 2004
This is a good drama movie, but it jumps back and forth alot between the future and the present. This makes the movie very confusing at times expecially the beginning where you dont really know whats going on . This movie isnt that much about drugs as the title claims "21 grams" which isnt cocaine as i thought at first. Its about a man named Paul played by Sean Penn who is terminally ill with a heart disease unless he can get a heart from a organ doner.Paul is married but him and his wife are seperated but she has come back in fear that he will die.She wants to have an operation to fix her fallopian tubes so she can have a baby using Paul's semem that will be artificially insemenated into her after he dies. Its also about a mother of two Christine played by Naomi Watts. She has a husband who she loves very much and two lovely daughters. And its a about ex-convict, Jordan played by Benicio Del Toro, who belives he was reborn and was sent back to worship God. He has changed his ways and belives heavily into god acting in ways for a reason or fate. He has two kids and a wife who loves him very much and doesnt like who he has turned into. Christines husband Mike was walking with her two daughters and all of a sudden a speeding truck turns the corner and hits all three of them.The truck belongs to Jordan who didnt stop so thats hit and run and he could be seriously charged . Paul gets a call from the hospital saying there is an available heart and that he needs to come in and get an organ transplant. These three people are all connected in ways they could never belive. Paul wants to find out about his organ donor and stumbles upon Christine, the grieving mother.He falls for her but she isnt sure if she is ready for a relationship and she doesn't know about Paul having Mike's heart. Jordan turns himself in. Will he be charged and if so how long? Paul buys a Gun what for? Christine starts doing drugs after her families death what will happen there? Will Christine want revenge on Jordan? Will Jordan still have faith in God? You have to watch this movie to find out the conclusion to all these questions. Its a good movie confusing at times but a heavy drama.
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