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Dan Heller's Movie Review of 21 Grams


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Alejandro González Iñárritu
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Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html If the Academy Awards ever found an opportunity to recognize a small-budget film from relatively inexperienced directors and screenwriters, "21 Grams" is the best bet going for 2003. It is almost perfect in every way, from the direction to the acting to the musical score. It's Achilles heel, however, is also its greatest strength: it's sophistication, complexity and very mature relationships are not for the mainstream or casual film-goer.

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Sean Penn
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Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, a young, relatively inexperienced filmmaker from Mexico, explores the nature of how people and relationships are destroyed and new ones built, all from a single innocent, yet catastrophic accident. He portrays this through the experiences of not just one, but three very different couples leading very different lives. A mammoth undertaking for any story, let alone film, since it risks diluting character depth and plausibility of plot. But "21 Grams" succeeds at every turn.

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Naomi Watts
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Sean Penn, the most seasoned of the actors, takes the lead role as Paul, a math professor waiting for a heart transplant. He has become increasingly distant from his wife, who still wants to have his baby regardless of whether he lives or dies. Couple number two has Christina and her husband Michael, who are perfectly happy with their two daughters in the suburbs. Then there's Jack, played by Benicio Del Toro, who has been in and out of prison for small crimes. He's "in the program", has found Jesus, and is trying to stay on the high road with his family and work to his Church and faith in God. Each of these people lives the best they can, but they are all in limbo: trying to find life, meaning, purpose, and almost waiting for something to happen to change it all.

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Naomi Watts/Sean Penn
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Then comes "the accident": a man dies, another man gets a new heart, and yet another man has to face his God for his crime. No family is spared the fallout, and the relationships among each other are challenged, as are the individuals' own spirits. The distances between these people are re-enforced by the seemingly incoherent jumping back and forth between them on screen, but it only enhances their relationships when they eventually form new ones. What's more, the film is not shot in chronological order; again, the technique is done so well that you're never really lost, and the re-assembly of events and new relationships are punctuated even more. Each time jump and context switch shows just a little more than the last visit, allowing the audience to piece together what the characters must have felt, with the same impact, surprise, and drama.

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Naomi Watts/Clea DuVall
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While "21 Grams" is strong in most every way, it is definitely a contemplative piece, requiring intense attention. The film makes it enjoyable for the most part, but it's length and slower moments - both of which are necessary in my opinion - may keep the film out of the mega-Cineplex's, or keep away the couples looking for lighter fare.

In the end, I felt that "21 Grams" was one of the best films of the year, with an incredibly strong script, superb direction, and such extraordinary performances, especially from those with limited resumes, I have no stronger movie recommendation to date. While it's impossible to completely review the film, or even touch upon its finger qualities in a limited space as this, I can only finish with the breath of satisfaction, and the comfortable reminder that some movies are still worth seeing.

You can find this movie on the internet database here: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0315733/

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