Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
U
SA 2003

 

"21 Grams" knows all about its story but only lets us discover it a little at a time. Well, every movie does that, but usually they tell their stories in chronological order, so we have the illusion that we're watching as the events happen to the characters. In this film everything has already happened, and it's as if God, or the director, is shuffling the deck after the game is over. Here is the question we have to answer: Is this approach better than telling the same story from beginning to end?

The film is by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the almost unreasonably talented Mexican filmmaker whose "Amores Perros" (2000) was an enormous success. That film intercut three simultaneous stories, all centering on a traffic accident. "21 Grams" has three stories and a traffic accident, but the stories move back and forth in time, so that sometimes we know more than the characters, sometimes they know more than we do.

While the film is a virtuoso accomplishment of construction and editing, the technique has its limitations. Even though modern physics tells that time does not move from the past through the present into the future, entertaining that delusion is how we make sense of our perceptions. And it is invaluable for actors, who build their characters emotionally as events take place. By fracturing his chronology, Inarritu isolates key moments in the lives of his characters, so that they have to stand alone. There is a point at which this stops being a strategy and starts being a stunt.

Except from Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: September 5th, 2003 - Venice Film Festival

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Comparison:

Universal - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Alliance - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Universal - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Alliance - Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

DVD Box Cover

 

 

Distribution Universal - Region 1 - NTSC Alliance - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 2:04:24  2:04:36.594
Video 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.24 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

Disc Size: 19,547,094,224 bytes

Feature Size: 19,476,086,784 bytes

Average Bitrate: 20.84 Mbps

Single-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4- AVC

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

 DVD

Bitrate:

 Blu-ray

Audio DTS 5.1. Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio English 3750 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3750 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz
/ 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio French 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Subtitles English, Spanish, French, None None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Universal

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

• None

DVD Release Date: May 16th, 2004

Keep Case

Chapters: 32

Release Information:
Studio: Alliance

Disc Size: 19,547,094,224 bytes

Feature Size: 19,476,086,784 bytes

Average Bitrate: 20.84 Mbps

Single-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4- AVC

Edition Details:

• None

Blu-ray  Release Date: February 3rd, 2009
Standard
Blu-ray  Case
Chapters: 32

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc. 

NOTE: Distribution 101 (who took their sweet time delivering my German Blu-ray of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) - have this available on Amazon.com with a 'usually ships in 9 days' caveat. It is the exact same package/disc as the Canadian edition through Amazon.ca (which does deliver to the States - usually immediately) is significantly cheaper - without even taking into account the low Canadian dollar - which would make it even a better buy (around $10 savings).

A film like 21 Grams made with some intense styles producing heavy film textures does not translate as well to SD-DVD as it does to Blu-ray. Some of the most notable improvement are in maintaining the grain structure of DP Rodrigo Prieto's cinematography. Now, it is not always grainy as scene tempos alter - but the visuals present a more gritty appearance than, more typically for hi-def, pristinely smooth. The DVD shows noise and it's obvious that the new, brighter, Blu-ray definitely improves digitally in the visual appearance of the film - detail, depth and color (skin tones) seem far more true. Thankfully, I don't see DNR, edge enhancement or other digital manipulations to augment the image quality on the Alliance Blu-ray. Like the other Canadian Blu-rays this is single-layered with a modest bitrate but improves over its DVD counterpart in the usual areas with more depth and overall tightness.

Audio-wise the DVD's DTS was acceptable in supporting Gustavo Santaolalla's score with notable bass response - and seemed competent with the mostly, if at time intense, dialogue driven film.  The Blu-ray has gone one step further with a DTS HD Master and it also sounded strong possibly more crisp but I admit to an inability to noting an abundant difference in the tracks. To my ears the mix does sound, more-or-less the same and I expect the disparity will be very slight for most people. Bottom line though, the Blu-ray is marginally better. In a strange twist the DVD offers subtitles while the hi-def disc offers none.            

 

The supplement section for both are totally vacant - not even a trailer.

If the film was a kind of experiment - I personally believe it succeeded and should be highly commended for the complex gamble. Realistic performances from Penn, Watts, Del Toro and Melissa Leo - add to this masterful scattered story-telling style. All that the Blu-ray can boast is a healthy superiority in the AV department. Enough of a reason to indulge in my opinion. While I'm a fan of commentaries and extras I don't mind a substantial visual and aural improvement at this lower, valued price. NOTE: at the writing of this review $17.95 CAD = $14.32 USD!    

Gary W. Tooze

 



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Universal - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Alliance - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM
 

 


Universal - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Alliance - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM
 

 

 


DVD Box Cover

 

 

Distribution Universal - Region 1 - NTSC Alliance - Region 'A' - Blu-ray




 

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