52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2005
We watched 21 Grams last night.
To counteract the severely intense, tragic film we watched Leno's monolog about half-way through and, after the movie was over, Seinfeld Season Five's "The Marine Biologist." Even with humor during and after, we still went to bed feeling depressed.
This is not a film for the faint of heart (or even faint of mind). It requires one to suspend all hope and pay attention to the slow, choppy unfolding of the story.
As others have noted, this film unravels in a distinctly non-linear fashion -- story lines overlapping, backing up, coming at you from the past (or the future - hard to say which), all interspersed to tell the tale of three couples whose lives intersect in tragic, unexpected ways. (Remember Memento? This film owes a lot to that ground-breaking effort.)
Death, drugs, tragedy, sex, hopelessnes, spiritual and emotional devastation -- all these themes and images are pounded into the viewer from people whose lives have forever fallen apart.
Sean Penn is riveting, as usual. But so are Benicio Del Toro and Naomi Watts (who, I think, turned in the performance of her career).
All I could think about while I watched the movie was this: Life turns on a dime. At any given moment, my life could take a turn like the lives of these characters. Many lives take that turn every single day, and the downward spiral begins. That fear of sudden devastation chilled me to the bone the whole time I watched film. So, in effect, even though this isn't a traditional thriller or horror movie, it still scared the hell out of me.
I'm not sure this is the kind of movie I'll be able to watch again. But I'm definitely sure it's one I'll never be able to forget.
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2005
21 grams is an underated gem with a splendid cast. It is one of the best movies that I've ever seen and is also one of the most original. It has a brilliant cast including Sean Penn, Benicio Del Torro and Naomi Watts. The acting alone is worth the watch but the movie..wow..
21 grams is a deep movie and will require the watcher's full attention. It won't all make sense until the end because of the way that it is formatted. The movie is so original because it throws random scenes at the screen. One might be from the past..one from the future..etc.. For example, one scene you see Benicio Del Torro in prison, the next in a church, the next as a construcion worker. One scene you see Sean Penn bleeding to death, the next smoking, the next driving his car. Now that's what is so original and genius about the movie...it makes you open your mind and the scipt is brilliantly conceived.
You will be scratching your head at times and be like "what is going on?" because the movie's goal is to connect all of these scenes in the end. It makes you watching till the wonderful conclusion.
There is no need in talking about the plot because that was something that I enjoyed discovering on my own during the movie. It includes vengeance, tragedies, life and death, and change. Some characters go from being happy to depressed and drug users; others change from violent to religious; others go from dying to being saved.
The movie has cruel ironies a plenty and the movie is so powerful that you will be thinking about it for a while. Everything in this movie has a message and a point so pay attention.
21 grams is one of the best movies out there..as well as one of the most tragic. It is a must see and can be comapred to the movie Crash. But 21 grams is a better movie for many reasons. The acting is better in 21 grams as is the originalty and the script. Where Crash has difficulties with unrealism and being corny and cheesy, 21 grams does not as it always stays realistic, original and splendid.
The scene where the boy is using the leaf blower is wonderfully done. To see the car pass by, him drop the leaf blower without showing anything graphic like most movies would..wow. This way is much better and much more powerful. So please watch this gem, one of the best movies out there, a must see.
28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2004
Format: VHS Tape
This is a hard film to see and understand, nevertheless is outstanding and deserves to be seen.
Film director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has developed a complex, tasty and compromised "film d'art". We may trace different stylistic influences on this movie: Quentin Tarantino's (Pulp Friction) non linear time sequence and some touches of Kieslowski's (The Double Life of Veronique) casual but most meaningful encounters between different characters.
Inarritu transforms an ordinary everyday issue in a strange, tangled and puzzling drama.
The story is as follows: there is a sick mathematician waiting for a heart transplant as last resort to survive; there is an ex-con trying to make a new clean life for him and his family; there is a family father taking care of his daughters. Tragedy and fate reunite all these elements into a griping tale.
Main actress and actors in the film perform greatly.
Sean Penn, as the feeble hearted mathematician, is able to express and transmit the anguish of nearly dying man. Afterwards he shows the compulsive need to find who his donor was.
Benicio Del Toro, as the ex-con, presents a very convincing mask of a tormented man trying to overcome his addictions and drawbacks in order to have a new opportunity.
Last but not least, Naomi Watts, as the widow of the donor, gives a performance full of subtleties.
Viewing this movie in DVD gives the unique opportunity to go back to previous scene when you get lost.
A tasty dish for movie fans. Enjoy!
Reviewed by Max Yofre.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2005
Benecio Del Toro, Sean Penn & Niomi Watts all desearve any and every bit of credit and praise they will and have recieved for their performances here. They shine, outshine even almost ever other performer of 2003. Now I don't know if I was the only one with the missconception that this was a film about drugs, well, it's not. I mean, Niomi does coke breifly, but other than that drugs has very little, if NOTHING to do with the story line. The film is shot in panic mode almost, switching from past to present to future to give you the begining and end all at the same time and then filling in the middle slowly so that it all makes sense. You have Benecio Del Toro, an ex-con turned Jesus freak sort-of is dealing with a grave mistake. Niomi Watts is dealing with a grave loss and Sean Penn is learning to live again, now that he;s finally given a second chance, a new lot on life. These three are connected through their new lives, their mistakes and misfortunes until the end which will blow you away and make you cry, at least a little, on the inside maybe...GREAT movie and highly highly recomended.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
21 GRAMS is a film of such importance that attempting to review it is intimidating. Once in a while a film appears that is a Benchmark, a film that is destined to alter the concept of moviemaking as an art form. That this is only the second film from the obviously prodigiously gifted co-writer and Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ( the strikingly creative and disturbing 'Amores Perros' being his first) serves the craft well in continuing the promise of film as art.
Inarritu enlists the intelligence of his audience and what a partnership that creates! His "style" is called non-linear which merely means that the story of the film is not spoon fed to us in a "this happens, then this resulted, then this altered, then this happened" etc fashion. Inarritu takes advantage of the fact that visual images can hold so much power that the story behind them seems secondary at the moment of viewing only to alert us to THINK as we see bits and pieces of history and result dangling from a mobile, ever in motion. We are led to believe one thing depending on how we relate to the image on the screen, and then we are shown that we misjudged that event as we are given more detail from the past and from the future.
While this technique may sound difficult to follow, Inarritu uses it with such facility that learning the true story being told is similar to the way we are running through life: we see fragments, remember tiny moments, watch the media alter variations of reporting reality, hear gossip, view events with prejudiced eyes, form opinions based on our individual experiences with like events in our own lives, or in other words always be faced with the question of what are the drivers of accidents/fate/destiny/need/passion.
The story is basically one of how three disparate characters' lives complexly intertwine - people who come to a fatal auto crash with very different life patterns. A mathematics professor with severe heart disease, a reformed drug addict mother who happens to be the wife and mother of the victims, and a Bible thumping ex-con who drives the truck that causes the accident. The events that ensue after the crash (the victim a heart transplant donor for the mathematician, the devastation the event has on the perpetrator and on the surviving wife) are the storylines we follow. The ending is an intelligent, shocking surprise and one that alters the way you will view events and people after you leave the story behind.
Inarritu has employed the gifted artists Sean Penn, Benecio Del Toro, and Naomi Watts and each of them gives the most potent performances of their careers to date. It is impossible to single out the strongest one as each actor owns the full spectrum of each character and each performance seems to exude from their innermost core of their talent. Each is powerful, subtle, sensitive, wholly credible and deeply moving. The other cast members are very strong - especially Clea DuVall and Charlotte Gainsbourg who take their seemingly supportive roles to heights of such importance that it seems the story could not progress without them.
The photography is appropriately and conceptually dark and the quality of the picture has a decadent graininess to it that enhances the mood and the perplexing mystery of the story. But in the final analysis it is the magisterial directing talent of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu that is simply mind-boggling. This is a VERY important film, so very much worth the work required from us the audience, and as with most things in life, the more we invest the more we gain. Well worth 10 Stars! Grady Harp, December 09
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2006
FAr from Special edition, not even a commentary from writers! only the " 21 Grams: In Fragments" - An Insightful Look at the Making of the Film
and besides, this edition looses the DTS track that had the previuos BAREBONES edition
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2004
Very good movie. The three main actors are very very good at what they're doing. The key line of this movie? When Naomi Wats, talks to her father after her tragedy, and she says: "Life just don't go on". Cant be truer than that. I didnt see this movie as about fate, or destiny or reflection about what happens when the soul flees the body, this movie is simply about what happens when one or several of our loved ones is not there any more.
The movie simply shows that fleeing in face of bereavement is as hard as fleeing in the face of death: there's no escape from it. Life just doesnt go on. There is no religion, no hope, no everyday life that can make up for the fact that one person to whom the meaning of our own person was so intrinsically connected is not there any more.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2007
This was an extremely moving film that pulls no punches yet beautifully avoids passing judgment. Del Toro is Jack Jordan, a seemingly normal guy who commits a most horrific crime - in a hit and run, he kills a man and his two daughters, condemning Cristina (Naomi Watts), a mother and wife to a life of endless grief and hatred. Separated, Jack and Cristina endure a living death. Guilt-ridden Jack will consign himself to prison and find religion an apt avenue for suicide. Cristina, it turns out, had an especially unstable life before being settled down by marriage, and with her family gone, turns back to chemical bereavement counseling. Jack wants nothing more than punishment, and Cristina is all too ready to satisfy Jack's need.
And then there's Paul, the man who finally brings the two of them together. A mathematician with a terminal heart, condition and a marriage to match, Paul receives Cristina's husband's heart, and then court her. Paul thinks himself a hero, doubtless, taking Cristina out for lunch, driving her home from clubs when she's had one-too-many. But Cristina has an influence on Paul as well - a negative one.
This flick charts the emotional rollercoaster of Jack, Paul and Cristina's lives. The film plays out of chronological sequence, but hardly out of order. Like a ride, it has its fast moments and its slow ones, milking the maximum emotional velocity by playing its scenes to a climax before returning to an earlier point in the story. The effect is at times incomprehensible but also unforgettable. Suffice it to say, this is the perfect movie for people who like to see the same movie more than once. In a voice-over, the title supposedly refers to a theory that the human soul weighs 21 grams. This is the story of those who got their grams back.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2004
21 Grams was definitely a film that I would classify as a "Mover", which in the meaning means that this is a film that really moved me emotionally. I dont mean this in a bad way, but when a film can change the way that i was feeling during that day, then it is really something special, and "21 Grams" ruined my day when i saw it. At first I was tossed around with the storyline and the plot, finding myself looking at the movie box countless times to get an idea of what was going on, but the way that the film ran was truly different, and effective. Great performances from some of the most underrated actors and actresses in the business today truly hoisted this film to a higher level. Sean Penn, who is one of my guilty favs as an actor, I've loved him ever since "Falcon and The Snowman", was truly brillant and full of life in front of the camera. Naomi Watts, whom is also a good friend of Nicole Kidman's, is actually a lot more enjoyable to watch in film to me than Kidman. Watts was dead on and to me, the performance that really took this film over the top. She was magnificant as the drug-addled mother of a recently deceased family. I felt her pain through the entire film, and she was startling in every frame that she was in. I felt her anguish, her hostility, her guilt, every emotion talked to me throughout the film. As for Del Toro, once again a tour de force performance as the ex-con that was trying to get his life together until he killed Watts' family. The only downside to the film was that it kind of dragged in places, and the chronology was rather difficult to follow, as was mentioned earlier.
Oozing with emotion that was thick enough to cut with a knife, well written, and acting that was truly astounding, this is truly a wonderful film, and a highly recommended film for those of you out there that appreciate movie making at its finest. See it! **** 1/2