January 14, 2012
Nonlinear storytelling can make for great entertainment—take Pulp Fiction. But the degree of fragmentation also matters. Pulp Fiction’s nonlinearity worked because its fragments came in big enough chunks.
21 Grams, in its theatrical incarnation, was as fragmented as a puzzle on the floor of Mr. Plinkett’s dungeon. For that reason, it took me almost half an hour into the movie to become invested in its characters.
Gatos’s version is a masterful retelling of the same story. Aside from a few well-selected scenes at the beginning of the movie, the story is told from A to Z, and it works very well. Inarritu’s atmosphere of pain and disintegration are still there in this linear version, but, my knowledge of the story notwithstanding, I felt I got my bearings sooner while watching Gatos’s version.
Viewing both the theatrical and rebalanced version of 21 Grams would be instructional for any student of film. No longer does one have to wonder what it would be like to view a chronological version of the director’s vision, because Gatos gives us a highly refined alternative. I offer my highest recommendation for this edit.