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21 Grams (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Making of featurette; Theatrical trailer.

MEXICAN director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, will already be known to hardened film buffs for his excellent debut, Amores Perros, but his latest, 21 Grams, which marks his Hollywood arrival, should ensure that he is the name on everyone’s lips come the end of the year.

Together with a top-notch cast, Inarritu has crafted a breathtaking story of hope and humanity, resilience and survival, which questions the notion of fate, and the role of religion, in all of our lives.

He also takes three stories, much as he did in Amores Perros, and shows how they will eventually collide via a series of fragmented flashbacks, all of which provide compelling explorations of human beings at their most desperate.

Sean Penn heads the cast as college professor, Paul Rivers, who is mortally ill and awaiting a heart transplant. His loyal girlfriend, Mary (Charlotte Gainsbourg), hopes to become pregnant with his child through artificial insemination, but their supposedly tight relationship gradually becomes exposed as being held together by a thread.

Naomi Watts, meanwhile, portrays Cristina Peck, a good wife and loving mother who, having recovered from a reckless past, loses her family in an accident, while Benicio Del Toro is Jack Jordan, an ex-con who has turned to religion in the hope of finding some form of personal redemption, who finds his faith put to the test when he kills the young family in question, following a motoring incident.

Tough, uncompromising and frequently heart-breaking, 21 Grams provides an unflinching and intimate character study of these three lives as they reach the heights of love, the depths of revenge, and the promise of redemption.

Without exception, the central trio are excellent, providing an explosive showcase of their exceptional talents to deliver a movie which is as thought-provoking as it is, at times, inspiring, but which may well leave you emotionally drained.

Inarritu crafts the film in such a way that the morality and issues raised throughout seldom become manipulative, forcing the viewer to arrive at their own conclusions, while wrestling with their own perceptions of each characters’ flaws and virtues.

Much like Vadim Perelman’s House of Sand and Fog, there are no easy answers, and no easy choices for anyone concerned, a ploy which allows the film to linger much longer in the memory than most mainstream fare.

And the story is filmed in such a way that, rather than allowing things to unfold in a chronological manner, it is rapidly edited and quite fragmented, forcing viewers to pay the utmost attention, for fear of losing their way.

In the hands of a lesser director, this may have been a hindrance, but Inarritu’s style is such that it compels you to sit up and take notice.

And while it is difficult to pick out a best performance, despite the fact that Penn seems to be on the shortlist for most of the major honours, all three are worthy of any awards that are bestowed upon them.

This is, in the final analysis, a rich, vibrant and startling piece of work, which resonates with a power and honesty rarely found nowadays. It is a masterpiece, and a personal triumph for everyone involved.

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