21 Grams Reviews
This is a look at the lives of three broken people: a feverishly born again ex-con, a critically ill college professor, and a housewife with a tainted past. Their lives intersect following a bad car accident, and the films looks at their lives before, during, and after the crash, examining the consequences of things, and the interplay that goes on between them.
This is some intereting stuff, and I didn't mind that it was downbeat and depressing as all hell; I just didn't care for the jarring editing or feel that this needed to be told out of chronological order. It really seemed to have no other purpose than to tell a story in a unique way or to be interesting. That doesn't work when this sort of thing is old hat and the way it is done doesn't make things more interesting. It really just makes things seem jumbled and fractured, and not in a good way.
At least the story arcs are rather engaging, and the film has decent characters played by wonderful actors who give some compelling and great performances. My favorite was definitely Del Toro, though Watts gives a bold and courageous performance, while Penn seemed more low key though still commanding and powerful. I could have used a bit more Leo and definitely some more DuVall, but at least we got to see them at all.
The film brings up some interesting concepts and has a lot of nice things to offer, but I think it would have fared far better had they just played it straight. Doing something like this seemingly just for the sake of it takes away all of the powerful that the thing had in the first place, kinda like using Dutch angles without really understanding why they're effective when used properly.
So yeah, this film is decent, and has its moments, but it's a mess and doesn't hold up as being as strong as it should have been, so I'm on the fence, but mostly leaning towards a thumbs up.
Naomi Watts, Benicio Del Toro and Sean Penn all turned in fantastic performances, with Watts my stand-out, and the nonlinear telling of this tale worked well in creating a sense of dread over and over.
21 Grams could be compared to something like Traffic or Crash. The similarities between those three aren't really in their content, but instead stem from the way each weaves a larger story from the intertwining lives of several individuals. This kind of drama isn't really my thing, but occasionally I stumble upon an example that draws me in more than normal. 21 Grams is one of those examples. Its non-linear storytelling makes you actively think about what's going on and constantly adjust the way you look at the characters, and that's a surefire way to keep me interested.
Everything rests on the performances of the admittedly impressive cast, and they deliver exactly what's asked of them. Most impressive is Naomi Watts, who continues to steal nearly every movie that she's in. She's just a great actress. And you can't forget Sean Penn, Benico Del Toro, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Melissa Leo. You'd expect quality acting from a cast list like that, and that's what they provide. No complaints from me.
As I said before, I'm not a huge fan of this genre. But I ended up liking 21 Grams more than I expected to. It's gritty and depressing, so don't bother with it if you like tidy endings or have a low tolerance for watching others be painfully miserable. Themes of faith, revenge, grief, addiction, and despair are explored extensively, but by the end of the movie there's a glimmer of hope awaiting the viewer and the characters. Just be prepared to follow them a long way down, before they find that silver lining.
A freak accident brings together a critically ill mathematician (Penn), a grieving mother (Watts) and a born-again ex-con (Del Toro).
Absorbing, non-linear drama about three disparate people whose lives are interlinked due to a chain of events that lead to a powerful forgone conclusion that will affect each one forever. Penn, Watts and Del Toro give career high and Oscar caliber performances inhabiting their roles with surprising force, dignity, heartache and ultimately humane. Filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and collaborative screenwriting partner Guillermo Arriaga skillfully skewers the atypical look at human suffering by deliberately distorting the reality via carefully edited sequences of non-chronological plottings that force one to pay attention as a real metaphor for life in general. Truly an unforgettable visceral and emotionally harrowing experience that is a definite must see. Moving and painstakingly on target in depicting humanity at its best and worst.