Tuesday, July 1, 2014

21 Grams [USA, 2003]

Nine Things about the Movie 21 Grams

1. This is the second movie of Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Death Trilogy, coming after “Amores Perros”. 

2. Despite what it may seem, the title is not about drugs. The movie is not about drugs. The title is a reference to an old belief that a person’s soul weighs 21 grams.

3. This is not a happy movie. But it is a powerful one.

4. The less you know about the movie beforehand, the better. But I can say that it’s about three main characters. Jack (played by Benicio del Toro) is an ex-convict that got saved, and has turned his life over to Jesus. But his faith is not as helpful to him as it needs to be. Paul (played by Sean Penn) is a college math teacher with a fatal heart condition. Cristina (played by Naomi Watts) is a loving wife and mother that battles with substance abuse. The three characters do not know each other at the start of the movie.

5. There are two crucial moments in the movie. However, the story is not told linearly. The movie bounces from character to character, back and forth in time. Some scenes are only about 30 seconds long. Some are much longer. But they dance around the two crucial moments, making you piece it together for yourself before you actually see it.

6. I’ve seen movies told out of order before, but this is extreme. The utter fragmentation of the film’s story bothers some people. But I thought it was brilliant. It requires more attention to detail in order to put things in order. This makes you more emotionally involved in the movie than you might otherwise be.

7. Guillermo Arriaga wrote the movie (he also wrote “Amores Perros”), and he has an almost supernatural ability to capture the intimate details of love and death, shining darkly between the lines of dialogue.

8. Benicio del Toro and Naomi Watts were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances. del Toro plays against type as a man desperately trying to do good, even while it seems God wants him to do bad. And Naomi Watts almost burns a hole through the screen with her scorching performance of a woman who faces grief more than once.

9. This is a gritty, surprising, angry, and tragic story that presents things on screen that I’ve never seen before, and in a manner I’ve never seen before. If you have emotional fortitude and a strong attention span, you will not soon forget this movie.