21 Grams

Joe's Preview Review

Johnny Depp and Benecio Del Toro in one movie by the director of Amores Perros count me in. 

Full Review 

 All the great directors have some kind of artistic fetish, a reoccurring motif that is a constant in their films. If so, Alejandro González Iñárritu has defined his obsession in his early films, automobiles/machines and the confusion of time. The first is obvious to anyone who saw Iñárritu’s brilliant debut, the Spanish language gem Amores Perros, and will be explained in the context of his new opus 21 Grams.
           The man definitely got the right cast together for 21 Grams, collecting some of the best actors of our Generation with Benecio Del Toro and Sean Penn, along with up and comer Naomi Watts. What’s wrong Johnny Depp couldn’t fit this into his schedule? Guess he was out on the Caribbean or the French Riviera somewhere.
First off this is not a drug movie. I do have a deep affinity for heavily drug related films but 21 Grams is not that at all. There is drug use but it is far from a focus, unless you consider life a drug. The film is a dregs of life type story, a brutal tale of severe yet believable life changing drama with well defined characters. A story of hope, death, the edge of life and everything in between. The portrayal of these ideas come in the form of one of the strongest character driven dramas in years.

The title is not a drug reference but one to the amount of weight one’s body loses at the moment of death. The films is a cross section of three lives in a scrambled up order. Benecio Del Toro plays a lifelong criminal turned Born-again Christian, even working as a counselor for youth in the community, who goes through a true life crisis that challenges all that has turned his life around. Sean Penn’s story is one of a man whose grave health issues radically change his life. Naomi Watts is “the perfect wife” whose world is destroyed. All this trauma on one event but it only takes one moment to change the course of time for any one person.
The story seems pretty average with a few quirks mixed in but it’s Iñárritu’s vision, along with the amazing performances, that completely separate this film. Iñárritu has Tarantino-like knack of weaving stories without truly giving a time frame. The film fluidly flies between past, present, and future without missing a beat just like in Amores Perros. The dialogue is oft limited, spots of silence extended silence add an even more realistic feel to the movie, along with the film's handheld camera work. The entire film has a in your face, hard hitting feeling to it.
              Penn and Del Toro are flat out Oscar worthy. The best performances I’ve seen this year (sounds like a good advertising quote if I’ve ever seen one.) Both of these men, along with the aforementioned Depp are actors that will take risks. They exist in a stratosphere outside of their contemporaries. Everything they so seems like a completely new character even if you’ve seen them in 20 other movies. Penn has gone from Spicoli in Fast Times to death row inmate in Dead Man Walking to wacky Jazz great Django Reinhardt in Sweet and Lowdown. How amazing is that breadth of work? Benecio hasn't been in the public conscience as long but has just as many memorable roles. Every time he breathes on screen, there is seemingly Oscar talk. Think Usual Suspects, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Traffic. But in his case, it's warranted.

              21 Grams truly ushers in the holiday season with a bang, a brilliant film with excellence surrounding it from all angles. Everyone involved is at the top of their game. Go out there and catch this one if you have the chance.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars
Reviewed by: Joe Soria
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Rated R for language, sexuality, some violence and drug use.

Starring: Sean Penn, Benecio Del Toro, and Naomi Watts
Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu

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