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21 Grams | Review

In God we Trust

Sophomore experience shows that this Mexican director is in a class of his own.

I’m starting to think that this film director must have been a crash test dummy in a former life. If you had to describe the raw energy of this picture one could say that it is the equivalent to the entry point of a emergency room of a hospital, your not sure what is going to come in and nor in what state and how the person’s state came about is usually an incomplete story with some holes to fill. With a cinematic microscope this hot director from Latin America loves to explore real life dramas and some of life’s final tense moments.

Following his international hit and his internet BMW Hire short film experience is this film about rebirth, redemption and lost souls. 21 Grams sounds like coined-term that a coroner examiner would use when describing the death of a junkie, but instead, the title refers to the amount of weight that the human body loses when the heart decides that a soul has past the expiration date. Alejandro González Iñárritu gives us a slice of life split three ways and this film puts the viewer through the same emotional test that the character must go through. The weight of this picture is far more than a pocket full of small change; it is a loud thud that delivers the kind of cinematic experience that you wish for each time you sit down in a theatre.

Jesus doesn’t drive a hot rod but a 4X4 truck which becomes a vehicle leaning towards turmoil. Much like Iñárritu’s last film, there are characters who begin as strangers and who become acquainted on a very personal level and like Amores Perros the timeline of events and the narrative are put into a blender. Complementing Guillermo Arriaga’s brilliant script is this trio of Oscar-worthy performances from the like of Sean Penn (Mystic River), Naomi Watts (Mulholland Dr.) and especially Benico Del Toro’s (Traffic) take on a born-again Christian having troubles with God who all put themselves in the space of their characters revealing and defining their weakest and life-affirming moments. What makes the relationships between the main characters so dynamic is that the affairs change form from one sequence to the next with all the flashbacks and flash-forwards it makes an interesting way to view and get close to the core of the characters. Iñárritu likes to put his characters through hell and see how they come out in the end and the out of focus shots inside the use of the hand held camera gives this film an unflinching look especially with the use of close-up shots filling the frame with disturbing imagery and actors ruling the frame. The creative use of sound also adds a dimension on to itself

Finding Nemo this film isn’t, perhaps even this film is borderline depressing, but instead is one half-realized human drama this dares to ask the inhumane question of how people survive death, how people grip onto life and how people deal with it. It will take a good 20 minutes to be oriented with this film, the creative use of sound and image makes this a pleasurable puzzle. 21 Grams is one heck of an emotional bag-carrying film—it kind of makes some of us wish we stayed home not because it’s a bad film but because it might just depress the hell out of you, which if you ask me is a great thing and only proves that Iñárritu is perhaps the next great director. Look for this griping, raw portrait to be among many top ten film lists.

Rating 4 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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