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21 GRAMS

A recent recipient of a heart transplant, a grief-shattered widow and an intensely religious ex-con make incendiary contact.


CAST: Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro, Naomi Watts, Melissa Leo, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Danny Huston, Clea DuVall, Marc Musso, David Chattam, Teresa Delgado, Stephen Bridgewate, Kevin Chapman


DIRECTOR: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

"21 Grams" is a ruminative, stunned look at life after death—that is, the existence of the living after they have been devastated by loss; it's the aftermath…Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro and Naomi Watts achieve something that doesn't sound as if it's possible: a virtuosity in the depiction of people wasting away minute by minute. Be prepared for it. You won't come out unaffected, because the depths of intimacy that the Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu plumbs here are so rarely touched by filmmakers that ‘21 Grams’ is tantamount to the discovery of a new country." --Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times

 

 

 

"…the kind of bad movie that makes a reviewer feel terrible. It has been put together with great sincerity, and yet, impassioned and affecting as some of it is, ‘21 Grams’ is also an arrogant failure…Through most of the movie, we don’t know where we are in the story or why a given action should matter…but, scene after scene, it’s breathtakingly acted and as painfully soulful as a meeting of recovering alcoholics…the revelation of the movie is Naomi Watts, who goes from glum silence to violently spasmodic outbursts without hitting a false note." --David Denby, The New Yorker

"Under its seemingly chic despair, its celebration of squalor and pain, its violence, its willfully skewed narrative scheme, ‘21 Grams’ turns out to be a powerful relic from a bygone age: It's really a ‘miracle of faith’ movie…It argues that, yes, God has a plan, clever and meaningful, and that coded in all human actions are messages from above…It has so many Big Emotional Moments, so many tears are shed, so many screams are screamed, that it's almost, but not quite, funny…We flash forward and backward in time--you must be patient--as we basically come to understand the before, the during and the after of the intersection of these three lives and what it comes to… the movie itself is a miracle: tough, smart, relentless, provocative and, above all, serious." --Stephen Hunter, The Washington Post

"Having butchered grown-ups and dogs in his debut feature, ‘Amores Perros,’ the Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu now turns his attention to little girls, whose senseless deaths (along with that of their father) form the centerpiece of ‘21 Grams’…The movie leaps backward, then forward, then sideways, then does a back-flip, then executes a handstand followed by a half-twist double-gainer…Is the strategy to make you work so hard to determine where you are in the timeline that you overlook what a dreary and conventional little soap opera this is? …Iñárritu keeps returning to the dad and his two little girls as they hurry down the sidewalk toward their fate, circling closer and closer to the horrifying moment—an art-house sicko's striptease." --David Edelstein, Slate

"Unlike ‘Memento,’ the reverse-told thriller to which it is being compared, ‘21 Grams’ is highly stylized without being a stunt…Iñárritu takes his complex tale of hope and redemption and breaks it into a mosaic of emotional tiles that add up to more than the whole…by forcing us to concentrate on each piece of the puzzle, Iñárritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga heighten our connection to and empathy with their deeply wounded characters. Penn's understated performance as a man who doesn't believe he deserves to be alive may be his best. But the real heartbreakers here are Watts, emotionally raw as a woman seeking revenge for her loss, and Del Toro, as a man turning against himself and the faith he believes both saved and abandoned him." Jack Mathews, --The New York Daily News

"‘21 Grams’ unstintingly explores and exposes excruciating pain, raw grief, ruinous vengeance and life-affirming resilience, creating human portraits that are uncommonly exhilarating in their honesty. This is cinematic art in its highest form…Like ‘Mystic River,’ its portrayal of grim experiences can be hard to sit through. But, also like ‘Mystic River,’ its performances are so riveting they make the movie well worth the discomfort.The two movies share the same star, Sean Penn, whose extraordinary performance in both affirms his status as one of the best actors of his generation. Naomi Watts fulfills the promise she showed in Mulholland Drive and gives the most heart-wrenching performance of any actress so far this year. Filling out the film's starring troika is Benicio Del Toro, who hasn't been this good since his Oscar-winning turn in ‘Traffic.’" --Claudia Puig, USA Today

"It’s forceful, to be sure, but in a lurid way that suggests a telenovela that’s been baking in the sun too long… ‘21 Grams’ sputters out in a farrago of flashbacks and flashforwards and flashinbetweens. The one signal achievement is Del Toro’s performance, which is ferocious and hearty. No transplant needed here." --Peter Rainer, New York Magazine

"In raw, charged images and superbly acted scenes, Iñárritu and his ‘Amores Perros’ screenwriter, Guillermo Arriaga, craft another compelling drama of fate and death, love and betrayal…Blessed with one of the strongest casts of any American movie this year, this bravura film, with its radical structure, is full of risk and reward. Its fiery narrative keeps driving us toward doom--and the odd pleasure and pain of watching lives and limits suddenly, unpredictably explode." Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

"Where ‘Amores Perros’ was a feast of energy, wit and imagination, ‘21 Grams’ is like a starvation diet — a movie that wallows so profoundly in its own misery that watching it is like atoning for some sin you didn’t commit. How much suffering is enough suffering? For the characters of ‘21 Grams,’ suffering is all there is; they’re martyrs in training…once you peel away all the nonlinear editing, bleached-out cinematography and vehicular manslaughter that’s been retained, however superficially, from their earlier collaboration, you’re left with a movie so self-flagellatingly ascetic that suddenly ‘Ordinary People’ starts to look like a movie you can go to for a raucous chuckle." --Scott Foundas, LA Weekly

"‘21 Grams’ is a grim, compelling and exceedingly well-acted meditation on life, death, guilt and redemption…Penn, del Toro and Watts create some of the year's richest, most wrenching characters…a rare Hollywood product depicting class differences with any kind of honesty. The title refers to the weight--perhaps the soul--the body is said to lose at the precise moment of death. But ‘21 Grams’ has no shortage of soul, wit or intelligence. It's terrific." --Lou Lumenick, The New York Post

"The humanist aspirations and attention-grabbing, time-altering structure of Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and his writer, Guillermo Arriaga, can't make up for the fact that their movie is sprayed with an aerosol of grandeur to cover up the odor of pulp…Despite this, the acting is something to see. After Penn's operatic, wildly overpraised bombast in ‘Mystic River,’ his relative smallness here is a mercy. As for Watts, when she's not crying and screaming, she screams and cries. It's the sort of ferocious stuff that makes Oscar voting easy for some people. Still, the role is a couple of breakdowns in search of a character. Del Toro does the truly eloquent work here, making rage, pathos, passiveness, and remorse more than a series of Oscar clips." --Wesley Morris, Boston Globe

"In this film, everything has already happened, and it's as if God, or the director, is shuffling the deck after the game is over…By fracturing his chronology, Inarritu isolates key moments in the lives of his characters, so that they have to stand alone. There is a point at which this stops being a strategy and starts being a stunt…‘21 Grams’ tells such a tormenting story, however, that it just about survives its style. It would have been more powerful in chronological order, and even as a puzzle, it has a deep effect… acting does not get much better than the work done here by Penn, Del Toro and Watts." --Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"‘21 Grams’ is as much jigsaw puzzle as movie. This fractured soap opera demands an active viewer. The soundtrack hiss at the New York Film Festival press screening was the whisper of people explaining it to each other…Iñárritu ruminates upon the mystery of life. Accident or divine plan?…The movie's dubious philosophical treatise draws conviction from its high-powered cast…Watts, who has the most difficult scenes, is splendidly mercurial; what's surprising is that those professional storm clouds Penn and Del Toro are here as powerfully restrained as she is electrifying…‘21 Grams’ is a sad puzzle, but then, so is life." --J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

"Inarritu and Arriaga have constructed their movie like a jigsaw puzzle, or the broken shards of a pot that has to be pieced together and made whole again. Chronology is tossed to the winds; the viewer has to guess whether he’s in the present, past or future…The fragmented form adds to the anxiety and dread that hangs over ‘21 Grams,’ keeping us unsettled, uncertain and alert for danger… Once the pieces have fallen into place, it may strike you that the peek-a-boo narrative strategy has been disguising a melodrama that, in the plain light of day, looks more than a little overwrought." --David Ansen, Newsweek