This review is shamefully late. I was chatting with Beezo about favorite edits and I realized I had never actually written a review of this beautiful edit. So after much delay...
This is quite simply my favorite fanedit that I have ever seen. It not only represents all the best that fanediting has to offer, the resulting film is incredible.
Flawless. No loss between original and fanedit.
Flawless work here. Truly seamless. Every edit feels natural. No flash frames, no amateurish work here. Indistinguishable from a theatrical release
Again, flawless work. Not a single stray audio note that I could find and again, indistinguishable from a theatrical release.
So before I get into the narrative, this edit represents everything that every faneditor should be aspiring to create. Each edit is hidden. No change stands out. If you were to show this to a person who'd never seen the original, I guarantee you they'd think it was simply the theatrical version. It is as good as it gets.
But where it really matters is the narrative.
Truth be told, I hated the original. To be clear, 21 Grams IS a very good movie, but it's not a very enjoyable movie. After watching it, my wife and I swore to never watch it again. We only bought it so that I could provide some feedback to Gatos on his workprint. The original beats the viewer down at every turn. The non-linear editing of the original is a constant weight that makes it actually feel oppressive, and when the movie finally fades to black the message is haunting, desolate and barren.
Gatos' edit reveals that the story itself is actually.. beautiful. To borrow a theme from one of my all-time favorite movies.. "Look closer...". Freed from the constant jumping around of the original, Gatos' linear approach allows you to experience the story as a normal person would, you feel the devastation of loss, the rebuilding.. the challenges.. and in the end, even though it ends exactly the same way.. the journey feels like a validation or vindication of life, rather than feeling life is fleeting, pathetic and pointless.
It's important to note however, Gatos didn't just put it chronological order. There was a great deal of leeway he had in how to stitch the pieces together and still be 'chronological'. But the timing of his edits, the sequences that he juxtaposed against each other were truly wonderful. Each cut is perfectly paired with the piece that comes before and after, it helps guide your emotional journey in watching the events unfold.
It's pretty much unfair praise, but I'm doing it anyway.. When I walked out of seeing American Beautify the first time I knew I had seen Best Picture for that year. It was impressive and.. beautiful even though tragic. That is what Gatos has created here. For me it was every bit as rewarding as AB.
Well done Gatos.. 10/10 across the board. Best edit I have ever seen. Bar-none.
Now, I haven't seen the, uh, Unbalanced version of 21 Grams, but I can't imagine it being better than this edit.
I was experiencing the narrative for the first time with 21 Grams Rebalanced, and the journey I was taken on was mindblowing. I can assume that some credit should go to the filmmakers, but the nuance of meaning feels as though it owes much to the chronological retelling.
Technically, this was a superb edit. The audio and video quality was top-notch, and played in great quality on my TV. More importantly, though, the editing of Rebalanced was some of the best I've ever seen. If I hadn't downloaded it myself, I would have had no idea this was a fan edit and not the original film. The editing was invisible, and I mean that in the best way possible.
This was not just one of the best fan edits I've ever seen, but one of the best films I've ever seen.
"The structure simply doesn't let any of the characters build an arc of growth or despair; aside from being confusing, the narrative locks us out." - from Roger Ebert's review of 21 grams.
21 grams revisited justifies its existence on that quote alone.
It's been several years since I watched the original movie - it sits on the shelf in the "maybe another night" department. This is heavy material, and as Gatos knows, I have taken my sweet time to get around to finally watching and reviewing this edit for the same reason. You have to get your head into the right space to enter this movie, knowing what awaits you.
Having said that, I'm extremely glad that I finally did watch this edit. Without the 'lock out' that Ebert described, we are arguably more present with the characters, and more lost in their stories. Without the editing artiface that causes us to consistenty be reminded we are watching a story from a distance, we are now able to follow the natural flow of events. We can 'go on the journey' with the characters, and share their discoveries and revelations as they occur.
At this point, I should point out that I think the non-linear style in the original works equally well, but for different reasons. The fragmented model is arguably more poetic, and has to find a rhythm in a less traditional sense. It's a collage of hugely emotional and intense moments that we piece together - like a dream, as discussed in the lunch date scene between Watts and Penn. But from the point of view of relating more directly and personally to these characters and their stories, Gatos' version draws you right in, in a way that the original perhaps doesn't allow.
As for the balance of scenes, they work beautifully. Nothing feels out of place or missing. The pacing is spot on, and the impact very intense. This movie is a sledgehammer, but you feel grateful when it hits you in the face. The acting is so amazing, the music incredible, the cinematography the perfect balance of gritty, light and dark.
Technically, the editing is pretty much invisible save for two notable audio changes between scenes (but to be honest, I imagine there were many more potential moments like this that Gatos was cleverly able to avoid!). There was also a slight lip sync issue in the scene at the hospital when Watts receives the bad news. But this only lasted for a minute or so, and was nothing major.
Well done Gatos, you've offered a powerful alternative experience of an already powerful film that can proudly sit beside the original on the shelf. 10/10
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.