In 21 Grams, a hit-and-run accident brings together three disparate people whose lives are thrown into disarray: a terminally ill mathematician (Sean Penn), his grieving wife (Naomi Watts) and a born-again ex-con (Benicio Del Toro). Each of them is changed forever in ways that they can only begin to understand once the film reaches its heart-stopping conclusion. The film’s non-linear narrative structure might confuse some viewers at first, but the jigsaw puzzle approach to storytelling is ultimately effective in keeping us engaged.

The Plot

The film’s raw and fragmented nature is meant to evoke the characters’ inner turmoil, but in reality it’s an uneasy gimmick designed to mask the plot’s myriad twists and turns. The filmmakers’ use of handheld cameras, loads of close-ups and washed-out colors resembles a documentary, while Amores Perros screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga creates a storyline that deliberately defies cinema’s traditional narrative continuity.

The Director

It must have been a bitch to edit, but director Alejandro Gonzlez Irritu uses nonlinear time tagging as one of his most compelling tools in telling this tense and riveting tale. The kaleidoscope of images and the way they all come together in the end, forming a powerful story of redemption and tragedy, is enough to make this one of the year’s most captivating movies.

’21 Grams’ features one of the best casts this year with the likes of Benicio Del Toro, Naomi Watts and Sean Penn giving outstanding performances. This is one of the year’s most intense dramas with plenty of emotional impact and thought-provoking dialogue.

The Story

A non-linear story of love, revenge and death. The plot drives from one incident where a born-again ex-con Jack Jordan runs over two little girls and their father with his car. This is the catalyst for the rest of the movie where he and his wife Christina Peck must find out who was behind this act of terror. Throughout the ibomma film we are led on a journey of grief, regret and self-justification through the intertwining stories of the three main characters.

The three leads are excellent, particularly Sean Penn who delivers a performance that is equal to if not better than his Oscar winning turn in Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River the same year. The other standout is Benicio Del Toro who gives an impressively layered and multifaceted character that is at once both nefarious and righteous.

Conclusion

The film may be a little confusing at times due to the overlapping timelines but this is mainly down to the brilliant way in which the script is written. There is a huge amount of depth and dimension to the characters and they are all played perfectly by the actors involved. The cinematography is also breathtaking, capturing the bleakness of the story. This is a masterful piece of work that has to be seen to be believed.

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