Saturday, February 19, 2011

21 Grams

 Well it is Saturady evening and I'm home from the video store with five DVDs ( and a reasonable bottle of scotch with which to enjoy the evenings viewing with!).
 How do I beginning reviewing 21 grams? This post is my second attempt at it!! I'll start with the fact that I also rented Monster. An unintentional fluke considering Naomi Watts and Charlize Theron were nominated for best leading actress in these films in the same year. It is now going to be interesting to watch and compare their respective performances. 
 For some reason I didn't see 21 Grams on the big screen. After viewing it I wish I had. This is one of those rarest of films that any superlative just can not be superlative enough. Brilliant and perfect in every way. I can't think of putting it any other way than that. From the acting to the non-lineal way it is made this film delivers in one of the best and emotionally charged films I have ever seen.
 It is absolutely emotionally harrowing. I can honestly say that I had tears in my eyes during two scenes of this film. 21 Grams is an incredibly moving story of three peolpe whose lives are turned up side down by an automible accident and the subsequent impact on them individually. It is a very human film. Any one of us could be one of those three characters and the viewer can not sympathise with one over the other. The viewer sympathises with them all.
 It is a very well thought out and made film. It uses a non-lineal technique to tell the three characters idividual parts in the tragedy. Some crtitics felt it didn't need it, but for me this is the most perfect way in which to have made this film. The scenes of each character are like a short vignette, not too long or too short, and meld the characters role in the events exquisetly. Tarantino's Pulp Fiction revolutionised this technique, but here in 21 Grams we see the technique in all its mastery with
each short scene out of sequence with flash backs, and looks into the future.
 This is a technique many don't like. I am a very big fan of it. 21 Grams is a perfect example of how it is done, and the film does it to perfection. I just love how, because of the short vignette nature of the scenes, a story could be told from three points of view simultaneously and still make a film of under two hours.  A non-lineal film would have been too complicated, too long, and too slow, to achieve the same impact.
 The non-lineal tecnnique only enhances the acting of this film. 21 Grams has some of the best acting  you will ever see in any film of any era. Period. Naomi Watts, Sean Penn and Benicio del Toro are on a level in this film thatIi have rarely seen before. It isn't one stand out performance it is three. The sub-characters are superb and give incredible support to the three main characters. It is a film with no weak links character or acting wise.
 What can I say about them, Watts, Penn , and del Toro?? Believe me I have struggled as to how to put into words their respective performances. Pean we all know is a superb actor and I shall never forget his performance in the outstanding Dead Man Walking ( again, one of the best film I've ever seen). Here he is at his absolute best and I'm hard pressed to decide which is the better performance. He is without doubt one of THE best actors of our times.
 Benicio del Toro is an actor who has somewhat slipped under my radar. He was in the outstanding The Usual Suspects (a favorite of mine!) , and the recent Wolfman, where he, Anthony Hopkins, and Emily Blunt's collective talents couldn't save a mediocre film. So del Toro in 21 Grams was a real revelation for me. He thoroughly deserved his Oscar nomination. Here he plays an ex-con who has turned on his old ways and to God. He accidently runs over Watt's husband and two girls and goes back to jail. Here is the real start of the perfromance as the character starts to battle his belief in God. "How could God let this happen. I done all he asked. I changed" he shouts at his minister. "Do you know where hell is? It's up here" as he thumps the side of his head. An amazing performance and I felt great empathy for him.
 As del Toro's faith in God wavers his whole body language changes. del Toro does it superbly and the makers even greyed his hair to give the look of a man who is under enormous emotional strain. The performance of del Totro is masterful. I really felt for him even though he had been a hoodlum in the past. This was a man who had genuinely wanted to, and had, changed but was pulled back into a world he thought he had left behind.
 Naomi Watts gained attention after Mulholland River. I haven't seen it yet but shall in the next few days. Again, it will be interesting to compare her performances in the two movies.
 Watts here left me breathless, and finding words for her performance is as emotionally draining as watching her performance! She is just brilliant and both times I shed tears in this film is because of Watts. She acts out of her skin as a mother and wife who loses her family. We can all feel her torment as we can put ourselves in her predicament and feel exactly what she is. Watts quite literally falls to pieces on screen, and it is hard to believe you are not watching a real person. This for me is one of the most outstanding female performances you or I will ever see.
 The three together are brilliant. As near to best career performances as any of them will do. Each plays a character so removed from the other but you never feel like you dis-like one over the other. You engage with their personal demons, share them, empathise, and then, like the characters themselves, are drained emotionally by them. It has a very gentle ending with some repemption and finding of peace for both Watts and del Toro. It is the cherry on top. It worked beautifully and left you with something  of a smile after the bruising you have just endured.
 21 Grams is one of the best film you can ever possibly see. It moves and batters you, and then grabs your heart and rips it out of your chest. If you can't cry through this then you are made of ice.  A brilliantly made film all round with acting that has to be seen to be believed.
 An unmissable gut-wrenching tour-de-force of film making.  
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