21 Grams Reviews
And it is based on this myth that 21 grams, a 2003 American drama was conceived. Starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, the story is told in a hyperlink non-linear format, where the past, present and future of three seemingly unrelated characters, converge and coalesce towards each other as the movie progresses. Helmed by acclaimed Academy Award winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu, 21 Grams interweaves several plot lines, around the consequences of a tragic automobile accident. Penn plays a critically ill mathematician, Watts plays a grief-stricken mother, and Del Toro plays a born-again Christian ex-convict whose faith is sorely tested in the aftermath of the accident.
In the initial couple of minutes I was mesmerized by the quality of film-making I was experiencing, but could not help wondering what it was all about. The non-linear narrative confuses you initially and you even wonder if it was necessary, but once you give it time, the movie will floor you. Based on the universal themes of death, pain and salvation, the movie portrays the journey of Christina Peck, a recovering drug addict and family woman, whose life is torn apart by the death of her husband Michael and two children in a fatal accident, by a Christian reformed ex-convict Jack Jordan. She is followed by Paul Rivers, a terminally ill mathematics professor, who was given a new lease of life after a transplantation of Michael's heart.
Iñárritu, has a fetish for the unorthodox, which is apparent in the cinematography of Birdman. Here too, he attempts a unique style. But, eventually, style doesn't matter. Whta matters is that the film has a heart and turns into a emotional rollercoaster ride for the viewers. Love, loss, grief, misery, guilt and redemption are emotions so humane that you connect with the story and its characters. You want to cry with them, console them and give them a hand. Iñárritu successfully manages to bring out these emotions with great maturity and candor.
The screenplay by Guillermo Arriaga is gripping, the editing is crisp and the cinematography is haunting. The music and backgroung score is also incredible. The gives us a sense of the utter despair of their characters, leaving the viewer emotionally wounded. And need I say about Iñárritu. He is the force that binds the movie together. He is confident and brave in his film-making and is one to take risks, without, of course, undermining the quality of his story or its characters.
The performances are incredible. As the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes put it, the movie is full of "fine performances". Everyone puts in the best they have to offer. Benicio Del Toro is outstanding as the ex-con Jack Jordan. His character is one full of layers and dimensions and brings them alive on screen with great impunity. Sean Penn too did an excellent job. One of the greatest actors of this era, he takes up a character in considerable physical and emotional pain and pulls it off effortlessly.
But the clear star of this movie is Naomi Watts. Playing a grief-stricken widow under drug abuse, she gets into the skin of the character, before pulling of one of her best performances. She is beautiful, but the pain in her eyes is unbearable. A particular scene, where she is informed of the death of her family, is heart wrenching and move you to tears. she shares a unique chemistry with Penn and the two share some beautiful moments of passion. If not for anything else, the movie is a must watch for her incredibly moving performance.
Alejandro González Iñárritu is a filmmaker with panache. And with 21 grams, he tells a tale that "grips us, moves us, and astonishes us". Add to it some incredible performances, the movie is a must watch.
Like Arriaga's and González Iñárritu's previous film, Amores perros (2000), 21 Grams interweaves several plot lines, around the consequences of a tragic automobile accident. Penn plays a critically ill mathematician, Watts plays a grief-stricken mother, and Del Toro plays a born-again Christian ex-convict whose faith is sorely tested in the aftermath of the accident.
As the second part of Trilogy of Death, 21 Grams is presented in a nonlinear arrangement where the lives of the characters are depicted before and after the accident. The three main characters each have "past," "present," and "future" story threads, which are shown as non-linear fragments that punctuate elements of the overall story, all imminently coming toward each other and coalescing as the story progresses.
-The title refers to the early 20th-century research of physician Dr. Duncan MacDougall who attempted to show scientific proof of the existence of the immortal human soul by recording a loss of body weight (representing the departure of the soul) immediately following death. The research by MacDougall attempted to follow the scientific method and showed some variance in results ("three-fourths of an ounce", which has since been popularized as "21 grams" is the reported weight loss from the death of the first subject). MacDougall's results were published in the peer reviewed journal "American Medicine".
-80% of the critics surveyed by Rotten Tomatoes gave the film positive reviews, based on 178 reviews with an average rating of 7.5/10. The critical consensus states that "Alejandro González Iñárritu deftly weaves an uncommonly structured narrative with panache in 21 Grams, a stylish, haunting drama full of fine performances." Roger Ebert, for example, questioned the use of non-linear narrative, but praised the acting and said of the film overall: "It grips us, moves us, astonishes us." Elvis Mitchell also praised the acting and called the film "an extraordinarily satisfying vision" that "may well be the crowning work of this year."
Told in a non-linear fashion, "21 Grams" focuses on three characters with the fixation of a subtle Altman film. They are Paul (Sean Penn), Cristina (Naomi Watts), and Jack (Benicio Del Toro). Paul is unhappily married to Mary (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who longs for a baby but is rendered hopeless due to Paul's dangerous heart condition. Cristina, once a happily wed woman with two lovely young daughters, has lost her husband and kids in a bloody hit-and-run, turning back to past drug addictions to make herself feel something besides nothing. Jack is an ex-convict who is trying to curb his criminal and alcoholic ways through faith, but is failing miserably. These people are all connected in some way or another, but to reveal the source of their crossing paths would strip the film of the pleasures you won't have.
Despite being one of the most depressing movies I have ever seen, "21 Grams" is still one of the best acted, bringing together a magnificently emotive ensemble and giving them what are perhaps the most rewarding (at least to watch) roles of their careers. Penn is a man torn between two equally devastating lives: in one, he is a sick man with a desperate wife clinging to his side; in the other, he is the co-dependent to a mentally unstable drug addict. Watts, in a performance so harrowing it would be a wonder if she didn't suffer while piecing together her characterization, is gut-wrenching as a woman so broken that we can only ask ourselves why she isn't shattered into a million pieces below our feet. And Del Toro is an embodiment of human suffering as a man who wants to atone for his sins but falls immediately after he stands up once again.
Everything about "21 Grams" is phenomenal, but despite its triumphs, I still have reservations about Gonzalez-Inarritu's decision to edit the film in inconsequential order. Some movies have done it well ("Memento", without a doubt), but in "21 Grams"' case, it's a loud concern that undermines the connected stories. Because we don't get to see characters develop in the usual sense, it's harder to grasp them as people, grip their personal stories as if they are our own.
If "21 Grams" isn't perfect and isn't tempting to embrace, that's beside the point. This is a frustrating but visceral film that overwhelms us with its sorrow, its despair. It doesn't feel good, sure, but one rarely gets the opportunity to experience something this exhilarating.
The back-and-forth-in-time scene sequence didn't work for me. I don't necessarily believe movies should be linear (two of my favourite movies are Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, and they are not linear in their scene sequence), but 21 Grams overdoes the non-linearity. I kept feeling like I was cheating, as if I was skipping forward in the movie. A linear storytelling would have worked a lot better, and made me feel more surprised when the story took a twist.
There were too many loose ends in the movie (I won't mention them, to avoid spoiling the movie for others). I just felt like I was left hanging.
I couldn't grasp the implication of the 21 grams concept, even though I thought I understood the idea before the movie started. I left the movie feeling confused, and quite bitter, as I felt ripped off as the supposed deeper meaning was fairly lame or unfathomable, and the movie fairly pretentious.