21 Grams

Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Movies Reviews Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
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21 Grams

Sean Penn won the Best Actor’s prize at the Venice Film Festival for his work on 21 Grams, and he might not even be the second-best actor in the film. Certainly, his co-star Naomi Watts, as a distraught woman, has the flashier role, and Benecio del Toro offers far greater intensity as a reformed ex-con. The convoluted script, with its complicated flashback/flash-forward structure, was designed merely to hide an otherwise empty narrative. When you finally figure out what the movie is doing, it feels strangely familiar. I didn't quite notice how familiar, at first, since I was blown away by the high-powered acting. A couple weeks later, though, its now-common elements—chance meetings, fate and destiny, the all-important gun—seem positively clichéd. It doesn’t help that director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros) doesn’t have much of a feel (or sympathy) for the religious motivations of del Toro’s character. His conversations about his faith feel reductive, which undermines the movie’s larger themes of loss and sacrifice. Still, the craft on display is undeniably accomplished, and fans of the three actors will enjoy the film despite its flaws.