21 Grams

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21 Grams (2003)

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu

Starring: Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro, Naomi Watts

Alejandro González Iñárritu has a name I can barely pronounce, but his films are easy to talk about. He’s behind the highly acclaimed films Babel and Biutiful. Babel earned two Oscar nominations, Best Director and Best Picture. This 2003 film is just another example of his great work. He managed to get some big names to come along for this movie. The stars include Sean Penn (Mystic River), Benicio Del Toro (Traffic), and Naomi Watts (J. Edgar).

One man seeks to save his own life (Penn), one seeks to regain his (Del Toro), and a woman (Watts) struggles just to survive. When a tragic accident occurs, these three people are brought together out of tragedy and loss. Now they seek to find the reasons behind the tragedies each has encountered.

This is a film about consequences, perhaps that’s the simplest way to say it. The movie is an emotional exploration into the decisions of these three people and how those decisions affect them, those they love, and those they don’t even know. The writing in this film, done by Guillermo Arriaga, is amazing. He also wrote Babel, another great examination of the interaction between human beings. This movie comes together as a sound technical achievement and a work of art. The visuals are powerful and wonderful. I love it when a director can get the camera right in the middle of the scene, an “in your face” moment. This movie does that with great success.

The acting in this movie is central to the success of the film. The drama and emotion are so personal that it would have been a very disappointing movie if it didn’t bring the full force of human emotion to the table. Bringing this energy to the film, Watts and Del Toro both earned Oscar nominations. Sean Penn also delivered an amazing performance in his role as well. Somewhere these actors were able to tap into a level of emotion that feels so sincere. It’s a wonderful experience.

The fault in this movie comes from the non-linear storytelling. I’m a fan of this style of film in some instances. Babel and Pulp Fiction are a couple of my favorite films. This time it didn’t seem to work as well. I think that the subject matter as a bit too deep and it hurt the flow of the film.

Despite the fault I found with this film it is deserving of every bit of the praise it received from the critics. If you’re a fan of movies that take a tough approach to reality then check this one out. This has a dramatic and powerful story that plays out nicely on-screen. I give this one 4.3 out of 5 stars.

Rating: R

Running Time: 124 minutes

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18 comments

  1. Good review. It’s a huge debbie-downer of a flick and I don’t know if the non-conventional approach was the best for this material, but it still worked and kept me involved the whole-time. Also, Naomi Watts is just heartbreaking to watch and definitely deserved the Oscar nomination she got that year, hell, maybe even deserved to win. Who even did win that year?

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