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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything Works - An Instant Classic!
Not many films can take a gritty subject, tell it in a series of harsh flashbacks, film it with a bleak landscape and make it work. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu accomplishes this great task with the help of immensely talented actors like Naomi Watts, Sean Penn and Benicio Del Toro. Del Toro is frightening as the hard edged born-again Christian who accidentally...
Published on 6 Jun 2004 by Martin A Hogan

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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could have been a lot better. SPOILER ALERT.
21 Grams revolves around the lives of 3 people, seemingly extremely different, who are bound together by a horrific accident. The title of the film, honestly, has nothing to do with the film itself in the sense that you expect it to. The Story jumps from different periods of each persons life. Going in the past, back to the present, glimpse of the future to some up the...
Published on 18 Feb 2011 by Winchester


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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything Works - An Instant Classic!, 6 Jun 2004
By 
Martin A Hogan "Marty From SF" (San Francisco, CA. (Hercules)) - See all my reviews
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Not many films can take a gritty subject, tell it in a series of harsh flashbacks, film it with a bleak landscape and make it work. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu accomplishes this great task with the help of immensely talented actors like Naomi Watts, Sean Penn and Benicio Del Toro. Del Toro is frightening as the hard edged born-again Christian who accidentally commits the worst of crimes. Watts is heartbreaking as the victim who buries her sorrows in drugs and alcohol. Penn excels in subtly as the man who receives Watts deceased husbands heart and falls in love with her. It's almost too much emotion to take in at once. All three actors are at their peak and Inarritu plays them off eachother without pretense or falsehood. Each character is decisively different yet all have one horrible thing in common. Inarritu tells this tale in an original, highly edited manner with flashbacks and foreshadowing that never confuses. The film is actually amazingly interesting in its ability to keep scenes tight and emotions as raw as possible. It is a rare achievement and this film would have received more accolades if the material were simply more upbeat. That's a tragedy in itself.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars gritty, 26 April 2012
This review is from: 21 Grams [DVD] (DVD)
This movie is intentionally misleading. It has a deliberately disjointed frame of reference and is shot non-sequentially.

The viewer is immediately captivated by the game of guessing just how and why the three main characters are connected to each other.

Each character is living a fairly normal, domesticated life which is intertwined with a much darker, chaotic sub-plot.

Super strong acting from some heavy weight leads, some clever twists and turns and perfect for those who do not like everyting handed to them on a plate.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 16 April 2006
By 
David Welsh (Oslo, Norway) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 21 Grams [DVD] [2004] (DVD)
Based on a strikingly similar premise to Iñárritu's first film "Amores Perros", 21 Grams follows three characters whose lives are bound together by a fatal car crash in which a man and his two young daughters are killed. The three characters the film focuses on are the wife and mother of those killed (Naomi Watts), the ex-convict and born-again Christian who caused the accident (Benicio del Toro) and the man whose life was saved when he received a transplant of the heart of the man who was killed (Sean Penn). The first of this film's main virtues are precisely these actors, all of whom are amongst the most gifted and brilliant actors currently working in Hollywood - 21 Grams is a masterclass in acting. The second of its main virtues is that it is also a masterclass in direction. The story is not told chronologically, but follows what Iñárritu describes as the "emotional logic" of the story. We cut between the three main characters and jump back and forth in time, gradually piecing together both what has happened and how the three, initially totally separate-seeming, strands of the plot are connected. This technique, though bold, is not all that unusual in itself, but what is unusual is the way that Iñárritu makes it work so brilliantly - he keeps you guessing and involved, but never confuses you. This is a genuinely outstanding film.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars We all lose 21 grams when we die, 6 May 2004
By 
Sebastian Fernandez (Tampa, Florida United States) - See all my reviews
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This is a very good movie, but was made unnecessarily complicated and confusing by the way the plot alternates between characters and different moments in time. I am not new to facing this technique, which has been used extensively by one of my favorite directors, Quentin Tarantino, and some of the writers I enjoy most, Stephen King and Mario Vargas Llosa. However, in the Tarantino movies and the King books I found enough information to make it relatively easy to follow the events and time periods to which they refer to. I found extremely hard to do this in "21 Grams", as happened when I read the great novel "Conversation in the Cathedral" by Vargas Llosa. After the first thirty minutes in the movie, it all starts to make sense and I was able to enjoy the movie. However, this production could have received five stars instead of four if the beginning was not so tangled.
Paul (Sean Penn) is dying and needs a heart transplant urgently, while his wife Mary is trying to get pregnant before it is too late. Jack (Benicio Del Toro) is an ex-alcoholic and ex-convict, who has recently been fired from his job in a Country Club because of his appearance. When Jack accidentally runs over a man and his two kids, Paul gets his transplant, and the destiny of the two men and the widow become inexorably intertwined. From this point on, we witness the emotions and actions of the survivor, the victim and the man who cannot help feeling guilty.
It is interesting that Del Toro received an academy nomination for this movie and Sean Penn did not. In my opinion, the latter shines brighter and his talent lead to justly winning an Oscar for "Mystic River". "21 Grams" is a movie that deserves to be seen, and I hope that if you find yourself frustrated at the beginning because it is hard to follow, you will hang in there until everything makes sense. I know you will not be disappointed.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Film, 28 Dec 2010
By 
Mr. S. Berry (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 21 Grams [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I can't believe no one has rated this film yet, great cast, great director and a great quality blu ray transfer and audio. If you enjoy gritty films that slowly unfold like memento/crash then this is a film for you. Not to be missed highly recommended
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the measure of a human soul?, 8 July 2004
By 
Joe Sherry (Minnesota) - See all my reviews
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A film by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
This is a difficult film to review because it is not a conventional film by any means. There are fantastic acting performances, and layers of detail, but the structure of the film is what presents the challenge. "Memento" was a movie that had a story that was told out of sequence, but the way "Memento" was edited worked perfectly because there was a definite method and clear purpose that fit the story being told (the story was told in reverse order). Unlike "Memento", I was not able to figure why the scenes in "21 Grams" were out of chronological order. This is a powerful film, but it might also be needlessly complex (complexity for complexity's sake).
Here's what we know about the movie (though exactly when we get everything fitted together is a little unclear). Paul Rivers (Sean Penn) is dying. He needs a heart transplant rather badly. Jack Jordan (Benicio Del Toro) is an ex-con trying to turn his life around. He has become a Christian, but still struggles with his anger. Cristina Peck (Naomi Watts) has lost both her husband and her two children in an auto accident. These three separate lives will start to intertwine as the movie progresses, but to give more than a simple description of who each of these characters are will be to spoil how they interact and why, and what happens to them. The disjointed chronology of the film makes describing it even more difficult because scenes from the beginning of the film only make sense when connected to a scene more than an hour later.
In one sense, watching this film is an exercise in understanding. We see the film play out and we are (or at least I was) working to figure out how everything fits together both as a part of the story as well as to the greater theme of the movie. The movie is titled "21 Grams". It is said that the weight of a human soul is 21 grams because that is, supposedly, how much weight a body loses when a person dies. The film, in my view, is trying to measure a human life, to see what it means to be human, especially in the face of death. On one hand, the film succeeds. On the other, human life and experience is so varied that what may be meaningful for one viewer may be less so for another. I thought this was a powerful, well acted film, but the out of order format of the film was a little distracting. I'm not sure about the purpose of setting up the movie with the mixed up chronology. This is a good one, even a very good movie. The acting is great, but I'm not sure if the movie is.
-Joe Sherry
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Broken Heartbeats, 29 Jun 2004
This review is from: 21 Grams [DVD] [2004] (DVD)
Amores Perros, the debut feature by Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu, brought him international arthouse acclaim and surfed the crest of a wave of interest in the new Mexican and South American cinema. After months of hype and interviews his follow up, 21 Grams, will bring his distinctive style and world-view to an even wider audience. This is his first English language feature and, with the draw of heavyweight Hollywood players Sean Penn and Benicio Del Toro, and the ascendant star of Naomi Watts, it will surely show him to be one of the most accessible serious filmmakers today. Paul (Sean Penn) is a maths professor in need of a heart transplant and is the film's pivotal player. After receiving a new heart in the nick of time he becomes obsessed over the fate of the donor and tracks down the grieving Christina (Watts). As the bond grows between them, they decide to track down Michael (Benicio Del Toro), the ex-con whose born-again Christian faith leads him to turn himself in after he kills Cristina's husband and children in a hit-and-run incident.
Much has been made of the narrative structure, a fragmented, non-linear retelling of the above events and their consequences. Certainly it pushes the technique further than most, and it is the film's major coup-de-grâce, involving the viewer in its characters' tragedy while eschewing filmic conventions of stitching together of time and space. Some of the editing is truly breathtaking; scenes cut associatively rather than linearly, along emotional or visual lines, the camera following the flow of characters' movements, or even objects, backwards and forwards in the narrative from one glass to a different one, from one set of cutlery to another. As such it betrays an intelligence shaping the film that is more concentrated on the most minute details than the major action - mirroring Del Toro's sentiment expressed twice in the film to radically different effect: "God even knows when a single hair moves on your head." The director, as God, here, moves in mysterious ways and in doings so reveals an allegiance to a higher order, though this detachment from the heartbreak on display sometimes runs the risk of emotionally alienating the spectator.
Like Amores Perros the film spins around the vortex of a fatal event, a car crash, that traumatically binds all the main protagonists together. But whereas in Amores Perros, the crash was visceral and literally bone-shattering, in 21 Grams it is never shown to the spectator, circled in on from different angles yet remaining in the off-screen space of the unrepresentable tragedy, more black hole than blinding light. Initially disorientating, it never becomes incoherent, and with even a rudimentary idea of the plot (as recounted in all the publicity and numerous reviews, the present included), there are no problems with comprehension; structurally reminiscent of other films such as Michael Haneke's Code Inconnu and, less precisely, Pulp Fiction, it is perhaps an example of how mainstream cinema can now incorporate sophisticated formal and stylistic experimentation.
The director draws excellent performances from all three leads, as well as from a supporting cast that includes Charlotte Gainsbourg and Melissa Leo, but it is Del Toro who is the most devastating, as the tortured believer who cannot accept his position in a drama that grapples existentially with faith, destiny and love. The film lacks the emotional rhythm and range of Amores Perros, and sustains an intensity of feeling that at times seems overwrought and heavy-handed, but in the closing scenes, with Sean Penn's final act, it acquires a poignancy and compassion that is ultimately redemptive and, despite its gloomy outlook, displays an optimism about humanity and the power of love that was lacking in its predecessor. Shot in Iñárritu's trademark bleached and grainy style (with his regulars, Director of Photography Rodrigo Prieto and Production Designer Brigitte Broch), and with an atmospheric soundtrack, 21 Grams resembles nothing else you will see this year, either aesthetically or in terms of raw impact.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A hard, but rewarding watch, 20 July 2014
This review is from: 21 Grams (Blu-ray)
There are some films that you can watch while you do the ironing and still understand everything that is happening. Other times you can pop out to make a cup of tea and still return to the film without missing anything important. Those sorts of films have their place. They’re easy-watching and won’t strain your brain. ’21 Grams’ is NOT one of those.

You have to pay attention here. For the story of ’21 Grams’ is also NOT told in chronological order, therefore you will frequently see things that are at the end of a two-hour movie when you’re only ten minutes into the film. I mention this now because most people who talk about ’21 Grams’ normally mention how well acted it is and how good the story is. And, to be fair, I would agree on both those points. The acting (from the three primary leads: Sean Penn, Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro) is as good as you would expect from three such stalwarts of modern cinema. Plus the story, regarding how the said three leads are brought together from very different backgrounds/lives through one tragic event, is also told well.

However, the story and acting is second to how the film is told. Like I said... it does get a little confusing sometimes. It jumps from here to there and, not matter how much I like it (which is a lot!), I still have to be in the right mood to watch it. If I’m in any way tired or not in the mood to really think about a film’s story, then I skip this film all together until I’m ready to appreciate it.

Basically, it’s a great drama, just told in a way that requires you to really concentrate.

Also, although the three leads I mentioned get much deserved praise for their acting, it’s also worth mentioning the three supporting actors (Eddie Marsan, Melissa Leo and Charlotte Gainsbourg) who all turn in equally compelling performances.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely moving stuff.., 13 Jun 2004
This review is from: 21 Grams [DVD] [2004] (DVD)
I can't put into words how moving this film was to watch. The film can take a bit of getting used to as it essentially floats between the past and present, however I don't think the film would have been nearly as effective if it hadn't been done in this fashion. It involves primarily 3 different people who are all unwittingly linked to each other. The acting is superb, not a dull performance in sight. Bennicio Del Toro in particular shines in this gripping flick. Anyone who liked American Beauty will be sure to love this. Awesome.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 21 grams of angels and demons, 29 July 2005
This review is from: 21 Grams [DVD] [2004] (DVD)
Nothing about Alejandro Inarritu's movie is at all easy. He has broken the narrative into a hundred small pieces and put it back together again from different points of view and not in chronological order. It makes it hard to follow. You have to put in some effort. It's also a hard film to watch because of the emotional intensity - people facing death, people facing bereavement, people facing the endless torture of guilt. With a cast as strong as Sean Penn, Benicio del Toro and Naomi Watts and with the powerhouse performances they give, nothing can be taken for granted. All the time you are led to question - are they angels or demons? Who is an angel? Who is a demon? Benicio del Toro is the perfect Mephistopheles - cast, he thinks, by God to be an agent of evil, he is himself tormented, as he powerfully recognises, by the living hell of his own conscience. Naomi Watts is an angel of mercy to Sean Penn lost confronting his own mortality and the emptiness of his loveless marriage, but a demon of vengeance for the bitter grief she has had to endure as a consequence of a fateful accident. And Sean Penn - is he an agent of retribution or a tragic angel caught up in a game of chance and consequence? Whether the fragmented narrative works or not is open to question since it didn't really detract from the power of the film to move on an emotional level, but it may have put people off who would have seen an exceptionally fine movie that is challenging in so many ways already it probably didn't need to be put together this way. If Inarritu was hoping for some kind of distancing tool, in the manner of Brecht, to get people to think on an intellectual level about what was happening - it probably doesn't work. The three leads are too strong not to engage with their characters, and the story too powerful not to feel sympathy. The film questions when a person loses their soul, what is lost and what is gained? When you watch this film you lose a couple of hours, you gain a deeper understanding about the ambiguities of life and the hugely liberating and relieving power of compassion and forgiveness. Something we could all do with.
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21 Grams [DVD] [2004]
21 Grams [DVD] [2004] by Alejandro González Iñárritu (DVD - 2004)
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