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Overall Rating
3.74

Awesome34.51%
Worth A Look: 23.94%
Average: 26.76%
Pretty Bad: 10.56%
Total Crap: 4.23%

13 reviews, 64 user ratings


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21 Grams
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by Greg Muskewitz

"No lightweight."
5 stars

Splintered, or shattered, or whichever has more pieces when broken apart, disparate tale about three people who become connected through a tragic car accident, and what happens when their baggage is intermingled.

The gimmick of the film is that it isn’t told with a straightforward narrative, though the pieces could easily be rearranged to flow in their natural order. It isn’t so much like Memento or Pulp Fiction, each of which had an order to their disheveled storytelling, but more along the lines of the randomness seen in Thirteen Conversations about One Thing (and they both share the same editor, Stephen Mirrione). The unorthodox usage of choppy storytelling begins at its most scattered — Sean Penn seen shot and bleeding, Penn with a beard, Penn on an oxygen tank — with none of the scenes sharing a rhythm in length or logic yet, but its effect is one that immediately catapults the viewer into trying to discern what is happening when, to whom, etc. Such use of splintered editing could easily put off viewers simply because of the energy it requires, particularly at initiation, to keep up with what’s going down without becoming lost. Eventually, the pieces begin to add up — Penn is a mathmatician in need of a heart transplant, and when a born-again ex-con (Benico Del Toro) causes the death of a father and his daughters in a hit-and-run, Penn anonymously receives an organ donation, and traces it to the widow (Naomi Watts) — with the end or beginning of one segment picked up over the course of the film to make all connections. Only the lead up to the accident, as the husband and children are leaving the house and Watts cannot reach them by phone, is repeated. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, it shares many similarities to his Hollywood Calling Card (Amores Perros), from the shared car accidents to split storylines, indeed connected, but each separate and with a life of its own beyond the woven web. He tends to aim for an exacerbated style, using bleached out cinematography to complement the drained mentality of his characters, and the whole frenzied, free-floating camera adds to the already hyper-activity of the editing scheme. (Needless to say, it works at times and is understood in the thematic reasoning, but it’s an over-touch rather than a touch-up.) Where the film operates on stronger ground are through the writing and acting, inasmuch as that’s the point in which the shared and palpable desperation of these characters become salient from the page. Clearly, the right steps were taken with the casting (and outside of the leads, there is spectacular support from Charlotte Gainsbourg, Melissa Leo, and Clea DuVall), with a seemingly bolstered commiseration from the non-linear particles of performances. I suppose it allows a break in the typical rhythm, which while it isn’t necessary, there is an added dimension through the points of connection and comprehension. And as the revelations begin to build and add up, not only do they hit you, they hit you harder because of the weightiness of the surprises. Penn, already deservedly lauded this year with his powerhouse performance in Mystic River gains nearly equable results through such different circumstances. Watts also expands her range, which although it doesn’t surprise me (she was better in Mulholland Drive), she deserves the recognition, and it’s preferable to see her remain strong after her thrust to attention. And Iñárritu’s direction, while his style remains in the tradition of what garnered him the attention with Amores Perros, actually gains more ground with his purposeful disorganization in this film, rather than the neatness of the separation in the former.

[Absolutely to be seen.]

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8348&reviewer=172
originally posted: 05/13/04 08:12:55
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User Comments

2/05/17 Aidan Butler Sean Penn character destroys logic of movie 3 stars
1/02/13 Davie bummer. 2 stars
11/26/10 Sia Shar one of great movies of the 2003 and the decade 5 stars
9/18/08 PAUL SHORTT CRUSHES ITS CHARACTERS UNDER ITS FOOT, THEN STEPS BACK & WANTS YOU TO LOOK AT THE MESS 1 stars
7/20/08 Shaun Wallner This movie was Awesome!! Loved It. 5 stars
12/21/07 Wendell O. Maness I love blood, want to drink it, love this movie 5 stars
12/06/06 andrew worst movie ever. boring and sux 1 stars
11/24/06 Charlene Javier Loved it as well 4 stars
6/25/06 MP Bartley Superb acting, but jumbled narrative is all veneer and no surface. 4 stars
4/12/06 anthonyuk superb and again sean penn shows his class 5 stars
11/22/05 Taylor Fladgate 4 Stars - but be sure to be ready to be depressed. Whoa. 4 stars
9/20/05 Indrid Cold Great use of a fractured narrative to spice up an otherwise ho-hum story. 5 stars
8/19/05 ES Broken time lines inmovie generally mean the director wasn't sure how to film it 3 stars
6/13/05 Agent Sands Plot order is as if PA dropped the script & had 2 shuffle it back together in a hurry. 4 stars
5/07/05 Vince Top notch cast and performances, editing seems random and as a result story is tedious 3 stars
4/09/05 K. Sear Nothing new but it delivers where other attempts fail. 4 stars
12/07/04 Orion Fascinating. More deeper that you think at first glance 5 stars
11/09/04 Matthew Wow..what an awesome movie! Naomi Watts rocks! 5 stars
9/03/04 Impey not too shaby 2 stars
8/28/04 capitalbliss Fantastic, I found the filming a little different but the movie is great!! 5 stars
8/12/04 kc finished the movie feeling...eh... 3 stars
8/01/04 Brad Gripping, great performances. 5 stars
7/17/04 Jim & Deborah incredible movie/fabulous directing and acting / "outside the box" so to speak. 5 stars
5/26/04 michele excellent! Del Toro's acting is hypnotic 5 stars
5/23/04 Monster W. Kung Good acting, but plot is tedious and the absurdly bleak and fractured approach don't help. 3 stars
5/17/04 elizaveta a really great out-of-order film. Sean Penn rocks, as ever. 5 stars
5/13/04  Shaun Rose Excellent movie with agreat cast, I reccomend to anybody who hasn't seen it 4 stars
4/23/04 Alex A good movie about life 5 stars
4/20/04 Phil M. Aficiando Mind jumbling pysche beater; great acting helps a lot, but.... 3 stars
4/07/04 A F Tried to hard to mess with the sequence 3 stars
4/05/04 Charlene Javier Proves that Amores Perros is no fluke! 5 stars
4/04/04 Vince Chan Finally, a non-linear movie that actually makes you THINK! 5 stars
3/31/04 The More You Know Like a challenge? Watch it - but be prepared! Josh G's take on it is helpful. 4 stars
3/28/04 Frank Lynch 21 Grams is a pretentious bore. 2 stars
3/25/04 Shelley Shea Sean Penn can do no wrong. 5 stars
3/24/04 Margie LOVED IT, LOVED IT!!! Naomi should have won the best actress oscar!!(I question the end) 5 stars
3/21/04 othree loved it, sadly, raw reminder of human natures +cast 4 stars
3/17/04 Holly Beeman I almost feel like it would have been more powerful in sequence, but he's got the tech! 4 stars
3/11/04 Matt Good performances but the story was just too slight to merit the style. 3 stars
2/27/04 Reini Urban +story, + cast, -camera 4 stars
2/26/04 Troy Butler Extremely emotional, ... amazing performances all round!!! TOP NOTCH!! 5 stars
1/29/04 Rapunzel Gladstone Poorly told story that would far and away be none too compelling if told well. 2 stars
1/28/04 marzio arigoni@rtsi.ch a punch in your stomach! Great performances, especially Watts and Del Toro, and editing 4 stars
1/27/04 Chloe Brody Not Sean's finest performance, but really powerful. Naomi deserves the Oscar! 4 stars
1/25/04 Smitty The most beautifully acted lousy movie I've ever seen 2 stars
1/23/04 Betty White Heavy, dark drama with grand performances. 4 stars
1/22/04 HAL You must think to understand this film and our thoughts are not linear. Fine film. 5 stars
1/21/04 Chronology The movie was based intense emotions and ideas, but is ruined by mixed chronology! 4 stars
1/20/04 Cheerleader who ran out of TP& has to wipe her ass with her pompoms Falls apart at uh, ending, or rather would if it had an ending. 2 stars
1/19/04 Gretchen Seitz "---" sucks! Since when is "no taste" a burnable in hell offense. 2 stars
1/19/04 the Grinch Typical movie you'd expect Sean Penn to be in...good script, but In The Bedroom it AINT 2 stars
1/17/04 john wonderful, great acting, camera technique, fine editing, beautiful work 5 stars
1/17/04 john bale Brilliant yet difficult gritty drama about Fate, great actors, grungy sets and camerawork 4 stars
1/12/04 KCobain Awful and depressing. Walked out after 45 minutes. 1 stars
1/03/04 Admiral Piett Sean Penn sucks donkey dick. 1 stars
12/31/03 --- Anyone who doesnt like this movie has no taste and should burn in hell 5 stars
12/30/03 ownerofdajoint if you like deep overlapping plots then you'll think this is a great movie;which it is 5 stars
12/20/03 AXE k 1 stars
12/15/03 Slo. Zombie This review just SUCKS !!! 21 grams AND Mystic river are two masterpieces of modern cinema! 5 stars
12/03/03 re A GREAT FILM 5 stars
11/30/03 Todd Stein A great film, interesting study of humans 4 stars
11/30/03 ajay tried to be cool with Memento-editing but it was overdone, confusing and masked a bad story 2 stars
11/23/03 smartmusician GREAT!!! 5 stars
11/22/03 benice save your money, worst movie of the year. 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  21-Nov-2003 (R)
  DVD: 03-Oct-2006

UK
  N/A

Australia
  22-Jan-2004




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