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  • Many movies in the modern era have experimented with fractured chronology, but most of the time this technique is used for entertainment purposes only. "21 Grams" is an intense and thoughtful film enriched by this technique, taken to an extreme I've never seen before. We're not talking "Pulp Fiction" here, where a small series of vignettes are arranged out of sequence. Every individual scene in "21 Grams" seems to be distributed almost at random anywhere in the film. You have to concentrate when seeing this film for the first time, because you'll have trouble figuring out what's going on, and even as a plot starts to emerge, some of the details won't be understandable until the very end. But it pays off: this isn't like "Memento" or "Mulholland Drive," where you may need multiple viewings to understand it all. By the end of this film, the story turns out to be quite straightforward. It's like seeing a gigantic jigsaw puzzle gradually pieced together.

    Unlike many other films that use this sort of device, "21 Grams" is a character drama, not a psychological thriller. The story would still work if it were told in chronological order. Why the scenes are arranged as they are is not altogether clear, on the surface. I felt like I was watching a mystery, but after everything came together it became evident that none of the mystery was contained in the plot itself. This fact has led some critics to suggest that the scrambled scene arrangement is nothing more than a cute gimmick designed to make the film more engaging. But I believe that the device does serve a legitimate purpose, by drawing out the complexity of the characters and their situations.

    Life is not good for the three principal characters, and it isn't getting better. Sean Penn plays a 40-something man with a failing heart, Naomi Watts plays a young woman facing great tragedy, and Benicio Del Toro plays an ex-con consumed by guilt. Penn and Watts come off as ordinary individuals reacting as anyone might under the circumstances, but Del Toro's character is particularly fascinating. He's been rehabilitated through religion, but he's still far from perfect. As a father, he has a scary presence that makes him seem borderline abusive at times. But he has developed a powerful conscience. Is he right to hate himself for what he did? The movie never answers that question. I just appreciated that the film resisted the temptation to make him into a caricature. He is neither hero nor villain. He is simply understandable on a very basic human level, as are the other two characters.

    We have the feeling that Watts and Penn are wrong to condemn him as strongly as they do. They do not understand his situation, or that he's suffering just about as much as they are. On the other hand, we as viewers can perfectly understand where Watts is coming from. That's what makes the scrambled scene arrangement so effective: it never allows any one character to gain our total sympathy. By the time we've sorted out the plot threads, we've identified with all three characters on an emotional level while at the same time understanding their faults. These people are trapped in their own limited worlds, and with our omniscient viewpoint we can scarcely blame any one of them for their feelings or actions. We can see clearly what these characters cannot, which is that they are more victims of cruel fate than people who are truly guilty of anything.

    What is the movie's message? That people shouldn't be so quick to judge others? That could be one interpretation, but what's nice about the film is that it doesn't hammer this lesson into us. It just tells a moving and stirring tale about complex characters, and viewers can take from it what they please. The title refers to a parapsychological belief about the weight of the human soul, and it's used in this film as a metaphor for the fragility of life. If life is fragile, then it's also precious, and people need not waste their time on vengeance.
  • A movie directed in inimitable style, Inarritu's 21 Grams is a provocative, deeply moving filmic work that explores several fundamental questions: What is a life, what is its value, and can we place a value on it? Directed in a series of small, seemingly disconnected fragments that come together as the film progresses, the film is thus shot in a style deeply unfamiliar to American moviegoers. At the beginning, most American viewers will find the choppy, nonlinear timeline distracting and frustrating - a cinematic form of coitus interruptus where once on the verge of revealing an underlying plot concept, the fragment abruptly stops and is picked up at an unrelated point. This style continues throughout, but don't worry. The answers do come after a while.

    It is worth noting that the actual storyline, when told linearly, is not as gripping as when told in this style. The linear form would resemble a typical mindless story of the wounded seeking revenge. The way Inarritu constructs the story allows him to give the viewer a sense of where various characters are at the same time without the appearance of repetition. It allows moviegoers to see actual events first, then form associations later. There is a sense of, "Oh, now I get it!" that would be conspicuously absent if 21 Grams were told linearly.

    Moving on, the performances of the actors and actresses in the film are incredible. All are believable. The animalistic hatred of Christina Peck (Naomi Watts) for Jack Jordan (Benicio Del Toro), the deeply troubled father who regrets his big mistake and has become a born again Christian, is palpable throughout. Paul Rivers (Sean Penn) is genuine in his efforts to repay, literally, a life debt. The performances breathe further life into the series of events that 21 Grams attempts to chronicle.

    By the film's ending, the entire tale of what has transpired is revealed to the viewer. Since key plot elements often appear in several of the disconnected sequences, they come to be points of reference that astute moviegoers can use to sort the rest of the plot. By the end, everything is complete. The title is finally put into context, and the attempt to answer the three previously mentioned fundamental questions is made. Yes, at the beginning, this movie may not seem to make much sense, and it may even be frustrating to watch. Still, resist the temptation to get up and leave the theater. Stick around and watch the whole thing. The pieces do ultimately fall into place. I promise. And besides, there's only one way to find out.
  • I'm actually the opposite of a drama fan- but this movie really touched me, and although it's quite tough to take in, I loved it.

    I think above all, one has to bow to Guillermo Arriaga, the writer, as "21 Grams" features probably the best script I've ever seen. I guess the story itself is not that new, but the way how it's done is simply excellent. The first, say, 30 minutes are just scraps- moments in the lives of the three main characters that mean absolutely nothing to the viewer (yet). Adding to that initial confusion is the fact that these scraps are not in temporal order so that in the beginning personally I wasn't sure I'd be able to follow- it was more like a music video that's just not making any sense at all. But then the pieces begin to come together just beautifully until in the end you can see the whole picture. Usually in these episode movies everything comes together at once somewhere in the middle of the film, but in "21 Grams" the viewer puts the pieces together one after another- like a jigsaw puzzle, and every bit as satisfying when everything's completed. This truly is a masterpiece script-wise, and I've never seen anything like it.

    That brilliant script is supported by excellent actors. Sean Penn, Naomi Watts and Benicio del Toro are delivering the most convincing acting performance I've ever witnessed. Like when Christina (Watts) screams at Paul (Penn) trying to get rid of all of her anger, frustration, grief and hate: I usually think these emotional outbursts don't seem real on screen, but in this movie it is just deeply touching. I haven't seen "Mystic River" yet, but if Sean Penn was as good as he is in "21 Grams" then the Oscar finally really went to someone who truly deserved it. And Benicio del Toro really is every inch the wonderful actor his reputation claims (I saw him for the first time but had heard a lot of him before, so I was very curious).

    Finally, thank you, Mr. Inárritu for putting everything together this nicely. You've made a very impressing 100 % quality movie.
  • Some movies are like a novel. Some movies are like a poem. Some films have flashbacks and flash-forwards. Some, like `Memento,' stretch the boundaries of convention and take wild risks such as moving the drama from the end to the beginning. `21Grams' is a cinematic poetic explosion, shaking all the pieces hard as hell, and then tossing them in the air to fall at random. Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, he gives the audience the puzzle unraveled, demanding that we piece together the story from interlaced past, present and future events. It is part flashy gimmick, part artistic mastery, but always compelling.

    This is not a film for either the faint of heart or lazy of mind. Nor is it for those who become frustrated by film that dares to step outside the linear plot and paint-by-numbers formula. The mishmash of past/present/future is allegorical in the sense that we all carry our past, all hinge our hearts on the future, and all struggle with a `present' as dotty and haunted as this film so wildly illustrates.

    In `21 Grams' it is required that the viewer surrender. As in life, there is no control. I must admit that I became a bit antsy and pressed for answers when none were being provided. You are riveted by events and players that intermingle in a haphazard mishmash of time with a rebellious lack of structure. You can either go with the flow-or back out to your car. Since I saw only one person exit the theater, for any reason, in the 125 minutes running time, I conclude that the fully occupied theater was as riveted as I was, even to the point of extreme bladder control.

    The performances are stunning. Sean Penn is always good, Benicio Del Toro solidifies his Oscar, and Naomi Watts is the big talent to watch. Her emotional honesty is beyond acting-I believed her to feel the pain she displayed.

    The `plot' almost seems inconsequential. The film is about the depth of human feeling in our brief interplay between living and dying. It's about damnation and redemption, revenge and forgiveness, surrender and salvation. It offers no explanations. It merely illustrates the human experience in a trenchant manner that makes us aware that every minute of every day is a precarious drama that we look upon more lightly than we should. The dramatic cortex is the human heart-lost, gained, tormented, anguished and confused. The metaphorical context is the fleeting nature of each heart's temporal beat and our desperately valiant struggle to flesh out our mortal hearts' desires.
  • '21 Grams' tells of a number of loosely interlinked characters in an achronological fashion, jumping backwards and forwards over their stories. There can be reasons for doing this: for example, to reveal the plot in a way that offers an extra kick, or to enable the plot to conclude with a scene from the middle of the story that gains impact from the viewer's prior acquaintance with what happens next. Quentin Tarantino's 'Pulp Fiction' justified its own complex plot structure on both of these grounds. But in the case of this film, I couldn't see how telling the story in such a broken way was supposed to add anything; and the fact that most of the leading characters possess a death wish (or at least, very little will to go on living) hardly aided my emotional involvement. At times, the film appeared to be shaping into a story about the possibility (or otherwise) of redemption; but it never quite grew into anything more the harrowing tale of a number of people who suffer and (in some cases) die. The pretentious voice-over from Sean Penn's character that ends the film (and accounts for its title) felt to me like a desperate (and failed) attempt to inject some meaning into a movie strangely devoid of it.

    That said, the acting is good, and the film is undoubtedly skilfully made. But "people die" is not, in itself, an adequate or interesting unifying theme.
  • When lives collide, often no one is around to witness the effects of the collision. Alejandro González Iñárritu, however, has captured the profound effects in 21 Grams. How much does life weigh? Iñárritu may not answer that question directly, but he does indirectly answer the question darkly and beautifully in 21 Grams.

    21 Grams tells the story of three lives brought together by tragedy: the life of a very sick man (Penn), a mother who has lost much (Watts), and a Christian who has recently reformed his ways (Del Toro). Really, these characters and their once-"simple" lives are the focus of this film, and all three characters are mysterious and deep. Each of the three actors gives an excellent performance, but it is Watts who stands out in all her angst. All of them deserved Academy Award nominations, and Penn would've received one along with Watts and Del Toro if not for his incredible performance in Mystic River.

    Arriaga's screenplay is incredible too, leaving the outcome inexplicable enough to be real and to make sense. Santaolalla's score is odd enough to fit the dark atmosphere that pervades the film, and stick around for the credits to hear Dave Matthews' fitting conclusion. Also, Prieto's and Procopio's cinematography is gritty enough to depict the unbearable anguish of the characters.

    I would praise the direction as well, except that I do have one complaint regarding it. It is often so choppy and irregular that it causes the story to lose a tiny bit of its impact. Perhaps this choppiness fits the film too, but to me it was distracting.

    Yet you should definitely check this one out for a sorrowful picture of torment, disgust, and a strange beauty.

    Final Grade: A.
  • Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu made a well-deserved leap into the renown film-making pool with Amores Perros, and his follow up 21 Grams shows him with plenty of talent to spare. He also gets three (or more, depends on how effective one thinks the supporting performance were) forceful, compelling performances out of Sean Penn, Benicio Del-Torro, and Naomi Watts. They're involved in three interlocking stories- Penn as a mathematician with a rottening health and a near-rottening relationship; Del-Torro's found Jesus Christ after being in and out of jail for part of his life; Watts is a house-wife who may have some deep troubles within her mind. Each of the three leads doesn't go for cheap drama, and each one plunges the depths of their own abilities to find truths that might not be possible with lesser material or a lesser director. I won't say much more about the stories, however I do have something to say about the structure of the film. The script brings some mesmerizing scenes, ones with great tragedy that bring out a viewer's compassion.

    Never-the-less, there was something about the structure that I didn't think was all that great. In films like Once Upon a Time in America, Reservoir Dogs, and even Memento, the scrambled story structure had a purpose, adding appropriate twists and turns for the audience. 21 Grams (like Amores Perros in a sense) has that non-linear basis to it too, and sometimes it works for the audience to react. But I think there would be a lot more power to how these characters' fates and tragedies unfold if it was told linearly from start to finish. In many moments in the film I found myself knowing a little too much before a particular scene unfolded, or I found myself guessing about something that I didn't need to (one of the points of non-linear storytelling is answers first, questions later). It wasn't an aspect that made the film bad, yet the stock that writer Guillermo Arriaga and director Inarritu put into this structure over interlocking the stories in order, or perhaps telling each story separately, is the film's only drawback.
  • 21 Grams features performances by Sean Penn, Benecio Del Torro and Naomi Watts that are remarkable not only for their believability, but also for the range of gut wrenching emotion they bring to bear. Telling his story almost violently out of sequence, Iñárritu makes no apology for presenting information in a manner that is often abrupt and/or confusing. His choice to juxtapose a myriad of images to reveal the complexities and subtleties of the characters challenges the viewer even as it elevates the story.

    Each of the three main characters faces a series of crises that unfold in the fullness of Iñárritu's version of time. By so carefully painting characters' surroundings along with their reactions to the events that change their lives, lead characters are stripped to the bone. The supporting cast is nothing short of miraculous (notably Clea Duvall, Charlotte Gainsborg and Melissa Leo) and completes a wonderfully complex series of portraits of the three main characters.

    Like few films in recent memory, 21 Grams fully reveals what it is to be human in the clutches of life's most challenging moments.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    An unlikely freak accident progressively brings three people together to a gripping yet tragic conclusion.

    Using a non-linear exposition we are led through the three leads' existences and how one key moment changed their lives completely, and while this approach at times might hinder the film's emotional impact in lieu of cinematic technique, the story told in 21 GRAMS is nonetheless powerful thanks to the performances of Naomi Watts, Benicio Del Toro, and Sean Penn. Of the three there are no stand-outs: all bring their heart and soul into their roles and Sean Penn could have easily won the Academy Award for Best Actor for this film since here, his role is rather difficult as his is more a plot device that effectively develops motives to act the way he does later on, but since his approach is so underplayed and profoundly sad, lost at times, we feel for him even when we are led to understand his condition is fatal regardless. Watts is all-out powerful, and anyone who can recall her beginnings in grade-Z horror films will certainly see a strong actress here: to see her receive the news of her husband's death early on is a stand-alone (as an equally good Clea duVall looks on, horrified), haunting moment. Del Toro, on the other hand, has an incredible, unique way of communicating his great inner torment through little more than his sleepy eyes; I've never seen acting this subtle yet moving. Even though he's done something clearly horrible, we care more for him because of his absolute, sincere change: this is an essentially good man who made a wrong turn and has a lifetime to pay for it.

    21 GRAMS is a very strong movie, but at times, it comes too close to becoming too pessimistic to watch; however this is only a slight quibble.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I watched ''21 Grams '' after many people (friends and dad) suggested me that the movie was great. Well,the movie is intense, depressing, but it is good for sure: all the actors were great in their roles,specially Benicio Del Toro and Naomi Watts. Naomi, by the way, really surprised me for good, I am so used to see her in 'cute roles', and when I saw her as a young mother, crying in the hospital scene, when she finds out that her family died, I thought that she wasn't, after all, just a pretty face on the screen.

    The message of this movie, is that we can lose our loved ones at any moment, and of course, we'll miss them eternally, but we must be strong and realize that life goes on, like when Christina's father suggests for her to move on,at her husband's and daughters' funeral. (And he knows what he is talking about, since he also lost his wife) Also how much we are all connected to each other and how accidents can affect all people's life, some to worst (Jack's and Christina's case) and others to a better condition(Paul's case, with a heart donated after the accident)what is the big irony of life.

    ''21 Grams'' is a movie which interweaves several plot lines and it is edited in a non-linear arrangement, that can bother many people and make us confused in the beginning. (A good choice would be to watch the movie 2 times to get it well)

    The plot shows the consequences of a tragic automobile accident that changed the life of the three main characters: Jack Jordan, a former convict,Paul Rivers, a mathematics professor with a heart condition and Christina Peck, a young mother who is recovering from a drug addiction with a supportive husband and their two daughters.
  • Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, becomes with " 21Grams" a master craftsman that can push psychological boundaries and proves that to understand the Americans, you don't have to be one. And very often foreign directors that tackle American psyche do so in an intelligent and often very accurate and sensible way. Even though this film could have had characters from any country. Of course this is the case with the director of this brilliant film. I had to see it twice under very different circumstances and both times i left with a profound satisfaction of watching a great film. The work of Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro , Naomi Watts and Charlotte Gainsbourg is superb. Overall for me, the best film of 2003
  • Inarritu's considers "Amores Perros", this film, and "Babel" a trilogy on the themes of family and communication breakdown. "Amores Perros" is a fine film, brimming with energy and fresh ideas while "Babel" is an amazing piece of work, self-assured and highly engrossing. "21 Grams," the middle film is a big letdown, compared to its companions. Like the other two films, it plays with time and touches on multiple story lines. However, moving about in time only adds to the confusion of an already muddled story. Inarritu tries but cannot breathe much life into the weak and plodding script. The cast is good but the actors also fail to make their pathetic characters interesting.
  • This movie is very, very good. Unlike some others I do not think the unchronological storytelling hurts the movie, on the contrary I think that the pieces that the viewer has to put together in order to get the picture of the whole story just make it more interesting.

    On the other hand, no matter how good the movie actually is it is one step short of masterpiece. It is like you are climbing to heaven but you cannot make it over the last step. The story is good, the filming is good, the acting is good, but there is still SOMETHING missing for this movie to be added to my hall of all time faves. Maybe it is the music, this film does not have a strong score, maybe all the components do not add up well together... It is hard to describe why, but I was not as stunned as I usually am after watching movies I rate at 10.

    Thus, I was deciding between 8 a 9, finally I voted 9 but it is a rather weak one.
  • The_Void25 March 2005
    Warning: Spoilers
    A year or so ago, I saw a film about a horrible accident that affected three different parties. This film followed these three lives, and we saw how the accident caused their lives to intertwine. The film was directed by a man named Alejandro González Iñárritu, and was notable for it's gritty styling and downtrodden acting. The film was, of course, called 'Amores Perros'; but from the information given so far, it could easily have been 21 Grams. The only real difference between the two is that the first version of this story was massively superior to this retelling. 21 Grams has all the ingredients to be considered a great film by today's standards: a tragic story, lots of shouting...sorry, I mean "powerful performances" it's gritty, it's downbeat and it's even got the split method of story telling. However, there's just one problem; having these things in place is not the way to a great film. Ingeniuty, interesting stories, great acting - these are the things that make cinema great. I don't know what's wrong with people these days, why does stuff like 21 Grams always receive a strong critical reaction?

    The acting in this film is really great...or is it? Are you sure it's not just dull? One of the side effects of these gritty dramas taking over is that the art of acting has been cut back and cut back again until all that's left is a dreary residue; of which so many actors are more than happy to wallow in. And why wouldn't they be? Anyone can mope, and these guys are getting Academy Award nominations for doing it! Death and tragedy has always been a favourite of Hollywood, and the dreary and depressing nature of this film takes advantage of that fact. 21 Grams attempts to explore the subject of loss and personal trauma by way of the soul, which is shown by the '21 grams' that we lose upon death. This is extremely ironic when you consider that this film has no soul. It's backbone is dissolved into the tedious screenplay, and 21 Grams doesn't offer us a single reason to care for any of the characters on display, meaning the only reason we should get behind them is because they're the protagonists; and that's no reason to care for a character. The characters in 21 Grams can kill people, be told that they have a month to live and lose their family until they go blue in the face - but if I don't have a reason to plug into their plight, I'm afraid I simply don't care.

    All in all, 21 Grams is a tragic waste of film stock. It's a product of it's time and reflects the way that cinema has changed this century. It's a shame that films of this nature will continue to get strong critical reactions, and as long as that keeps happening, the studios will continue to churn them out. 21 Grams is nothing but another film.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I had heard a lot about this movie. I had also gotten to love Naomi Watts after her brilliant performance in Mulholland Drive. And of course, there was also Benicio Del Toro who is a terrific actor as well. So I decided to rent the DVD of "21 Grams".

    Never have I seen such a waste of great talent before! The movie tries hard to look like "Pulp Fiction" with the chronology all shuffled (this is not a becomes pretty obvious in the first two minutes). Only "Pulp Fiction" is a masterpiece, with some of the best dialogue, best acting, and excellent narrative that is directed brilliantly by Quentin Tarantino! "21 Grams" fails miserably in telling the story it has to tell or the point it is trying to make! This is also one of the sappiest tales ever in film; just that it doesn't create an impact it is supposed to create! What with the immense sorrow in Christina's (Watts) life, I just didn't feel any connection.

    So.... Penn gets her husband's heart, and so he feels he owes her...she weeps on knowing this fact, and they end up having sex! And Christina is supposed to be suffering and grieving a lot over her husband and daughters' death!

    I give this movie some credit for the brilliant performances by Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro and maybe a couple of good scenes. But that's about it! There is nothing else to write about. Sean Penn didn't seem right in this role; he was ten times better in "Carlito's Way" and "Mystic River".

    "21 grams" is below average!
  • Snapshots of tragedy: the lives of three people--a wife and mother of two, a dying man in need of a new heart, and an ex-con turned counselor at a religious center--intersect after a tragic car accident. The film consists of episodes in their lives (before and after the accident) which are shuffled about, with scene after dramatic scene served up--one may assume--in random order; yet there's a method to this editing madness, and the film's narrative actually feels much more linear in retrospect. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu is visually addicted to squalor (he sees the lonely beauty of it) and his film is unrelentingly gritty; this ambiance is matched by the performances of all three principles (Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, and Benicio Del Toro), each of whom perform totally without vanity. It is a remarkable achievement, with a few sequences of textbook dramatics completely recharged by the style, the desperate energy, and the emotionally gripping handling. ***1/2 from ****
  • colleenclare829 December 2004
    This film is one of the most emotionally manipulative films I've ever seen. It is also one of the most insulting. It is just awful. It attempts to be profound with the 'great' revelation that born again Christians aren't necessarily the greatest people, and that ex-cons really have a bad side underneath it all...uh really? You think? My patience was wearing with the highly overdramatized character of Christina Peck (Naomi Watts), as she wallowed in her own self-pity, skipping the normal process of grieving. And there was no more pathetic character than that of Paul Rivers (Sean Penn), whose obsessive, dying, math obsessed character made me wonder why any woman would find him attractive. The only character I felt any sympathy for was the beautifully acted and portrayed character of Marianne Jordan (Melissa Leo), who perfectly acted the pain of keeping together a family torn by abuse and alcoholism.

    The biggest problem with this film is that it fails in what it sets out to do. It wants to be a piece to show the dark side of human beings by bringing to surface contradictions that we wouldn't otherwise notice. But it reveals little that isn't already known, and it does not show the faults in everyday people in any sort of entertaining and refreshing way. It simply shows us their lives unfolding backwards, a feat that Seinfeld already accomplished, yet with such better results. In the end it is just dark and dreary, and leaves little to be gained from the experience. The dialogue is trite, the scenes are dreary, and this drama about life reflects nothing more than a teenage angst-ridden attempt to make sense of the world.

    My life is worse off for having seen it.
  • Sean, Benicio, and Naomi turn in Oscar deserving performances in a screenplay that reveals itself little by little in a scrambled fashion. This film's disdain for chronological storytelling makes it all the more compelling and in fact brilliant! I know of people that saw the film who had no clue what happened but I was moved by the unorthodox screenplay and entranced throughout. Do we lose 21 grams of mass at the moment of death and is that 21 grams our soul? Does our soul continue on? I can't know, who can know, but it's intriguing to theorize and discuss. I rather like the idea that our souls do survive then inhabit some other life form (reincarnate souls is a comforting thought), but I've been knocked cold for a prolonged period of time and I can tell you from that experience the only thing I experienced was no experience at all! However I've had other experiences that convince me malevolent other world forces are at work which suggests there is other worldly good forces as well. God and Satan as an antagonist duality or one in the same? Don't the Freemasons believe God and Satan are one? By the way this is an amazing film!
  • 21 Grams is a hard film to like. The first half hour or so is inaccessible and at points the editing leaves one bewildered. You don't get a chance to know or engage with the characters because you are buffeted between stories at an incredibly fast pace. I'm just about to learn about Jack Jordan's faith then I'm suddenly thrown into Paul Rivers's marital strife. At times this works well, like the cut from Jordan giving his son a slap, into Cristina Peck's kitchen where she is baking a cake with her kids. There is a certain fluidity to it that makes sense, aside from the fact that those events are actually taking place in the same time frame.

    Ah the time frames. As I said at times the cutting between them is quite bewildering, but then I stopped to think what the movie would be like without them, as in the editing cleverly disguises what it really is. Yes it could have been a feature length episode of British hospital drama Casualty, with superior acting. Seriously, we've got the family of to meet mummy, the guy who's just been sacked and the guy who needs a heart transplant, what catastrophe will it take to get them all in the ER room? And that in my mind is where it all falls down, this is just a bit of melodrama, that is technically brilliant, contains powerful performances, but is at best a very dull story.

    That's not to say I disliked it. The pay off at the end is very good, and seems to provide a philosophical twist to events, and gives Rivers a noble slant to his character's arc. Sean Penn IMO gives the stand out performance, measured, calm, at times enigmatic and never showy. He makes Rivers feel genuine. I believe in him when he 'stalks' the wife of his heart donor. Del Toro's Jordan is very good, he conveys the genuine anguish of his character, as he falls from the born again Christian he has fought to become. Watts as Cristina I felt was the weak link. There are moments where she gets angry, that I felt were incredibly contrived. For example when Paul first hits her with his revelation, her explosion felt stagey. I've seen angry, I've been angry, and know what it should be like. Melissa Leo as Jordan's wife is very good in the scenes she gets, but again it's a character conveying anguish. There's a lot of that in this film.

    The director says it's a hopeful film, and I'd agree to an extent. The ending offers some hope for the characters, as they resume their lives. I don't think life is as simple as that though, they've seen and lived some pretty bad sh*t and I imagine they'd be scarred no matter how they approach the future.

    I did like some of the symbolism Inarittu finds with some of the cuts. For instance there's a shot of Jordan leaving his truck, and as the camera lingers it captures in the frame a number of religious symbols in his car. Then when Cristina leaves her kids' room after she gets the call, the camera focuses on a mobile hanging. In each case it lingers for a second or so, giving one the chance for some reflective thought.

    Overall it's an interesting film, it will make you think, but whether it will really engage your emotions I don't know. Certainly didn't engage mine and left me pretty cold. It's hard to find specific things to criticise it on, I suppose if I was struggling to say why I liked something I'd say it was the 'je n'ai ce quoi' so this is reverse 'je n'ai ce quoi' if you like. That and the fact that it's a glorified version of a bit of British kitchen sink drama!
  • remember memento? time flowed backwards, and it was perfect. one of the best movies ever. well, it was great to see how the understanding of the story gets better and deeper when you learned just what happened before. well, in memento you knew exactly when everything happened- cause the flow was exactly backwards. in this movie, you have no idea when each scene happens. so basically, you are guessing the whole time. the makers of this movie had to do it, cause otherwise the movie would have been very very boring. when you realize everything, you gather that the story is not interesting at all. the entire interest lies in guessing "who is that guy?". "did that happen before of after?" and so on. you can just take any bad movie ever written, mix out the scenes randomly, and get a movie just as good as this one. just make sure there are enough naked women in it to make the guys happy. my opinion: don't waste your time.
  • chetandeo822 June 2009
    This movie has really been over-hyped and is a dragging account of the interleaving lives of a few people dealing with different difficult situations in their lives...Goes much on similar lines to Amores Perros so better watch Amores Perros and leave this one alone... Very very dissatisfied with the overall effect. Editing sequences differently and creating a collage doesn't mean that a great movie has been made. Somebody has to tell these directors that non-linear is not an equation for greatness. You first need to come up with something ingenious. Don't peep at the lives of these people...they are really nothing characters who are not sure what to do and who are jumping thoughts per second...Poor story,poor screenplay Acting,direction and editing are not to be blamed for this disaster
  • If you haven't seen many movies you might enjoy 21 grams. Otherwise you are likely to see straight through this rehashed plot. The only redeeming factor is the quality cinematography. 21 grams steals ideas from films like Magnolia and Memento. It tries to make a simple story about people who make their problems worse, interesting by reordering events in time. This is a popular fad in films these days which reminds me of choose your own adventure books, because this is how I imagine these films are created. Instead of providing real content the movie is a hodgepodge of gimmicks. A little life and death drama, some action, some mystery, some blood and guts give it a big budget -- Hey we've got a blockbuster. To top it off the 21 grams premise is weak and never developed and has very little to do with the rest of the film. You can leave this movie with the impression that you learned something about life, but just what was it? Instead watch Amores Perros a quality film by the same Director/Writer duo.
  • This movie had a good idea, wait... no it didn't. 21 grams is better explained to someone in 5 minutes than shown for 2 hours 5 minutes. It super-played with time -- how things were presented -- but was too too much and didn't present them in a way that kept my interest... if you want something interesting like that, see Memento, Pulp Fiction, or Run Lola Run.

    The camera use was handheld, grainy, with filters, which made me think immediately of traffic, but point is, its use was fun regulated here and was more distracting because I kept thinking of what the director wanted the movie to be.

    The acting was good (by Penn and Watts), but Del Toro looks awkward and his accent was horrible (is that his real voice... wait... does it matter?)... Too bad there wasn't a solid substance behind the movie for it to be worth an oscar or my time or money... what lesson is learned, what was gained. The whole "mathematics of life" deal doesn't really play in at all (where's the correlation)... and what was amazing was that I had a 6th sense about that... after the first 2 minutes, I was p***ed off because I saw that the movie had no point.

    I definitely would not recommend this movie. There are so many other better movies this season. Check out In America or Mystic River instead.
  • well, this is a well made and visually interesting drama. before you check it out though, please make sure that you are generally into the following:

    • long runtime - non-linear storyline - watch people suffer ... a lot ... for a long time ... repeatedly ... the same people ... i mean really a lot

    don't get me wrong, i am a huge fan of well made drama. usually it is more the south Korean and European masters that i feel compelled to, but the USA also comes up with a gem on occasion. i am also not against non-linear time-lines in general, which my affinity for lynch is proof enough i guess.

    the problem is, that once a particular element gets overused within a movie then it might start to wreck some of the more interesting parts.

    as i already pointed out, this is a solid piece of work and i am also not opposed to the genre, but you got use everything in moderation. the first hour or so was OK, even though i already, by that point thought that it was at least two hours that had already passed by. by the end of the second hour i had the impression that i was watching this movie for 4:30 hours straight, maybe even more. second major downer for me was the amount of suffering that they forced into the movie. this was the second element that was completely overused. of course a drama feeds of tragedy, but if you put too much tragedy into a piece of art then, starting at a certain point, you walk risk of coming off as sarcastic. every two minutes you see someone dying, bleeding, weeping, crying ...etc until the impact gets lost for the most part.

    same goes for the non-linear timeline. no problem in general, but where is the judgification? why was this element chosen? this movie bounces around in time, like it is the tardis, which gets almost unbearable towards the end. the story lines would have worked very well linear. combining the ole 3-strangers-fate-interconnect scripting with a non-linear timeline is never a wise idea, as the risk of confusing the audience and/or lose their interest is just too high.

    bottom line: solid work, too much elements chosen, main elements overused, loses momentum and recovers enough towards the end to not make you ask for your money back.
  • I hated this movie. The first 30 minutes jumped between characters and time periods without any regard for flow. There seemed to be no connection between the characters other than the fact that they were shown together in the final scenes. When the connection was finally made, there was really no more story to be told, but there was 90 minutes left in the movie. ARGH!!!!!!! It was excruciating. The three of us who saw it (including one HUGE fan of Amores Perros) were all extremely relieved to be out.
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