“What can you tell me that will dazzle me?”
Ben Campbell is confronted with this question during his scholarship interview for Harvard Medical School in the movie 21. Ben (Jim Sturgess) is a student at M.I.T. who had only one dream growing up: to attend Harvard Medical School.
Unfortunately, Ben cannot afford the high tuition, but soon enough he is presented with an opportunity he cannot refuse. After impressing his advanced math professor, Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey), Ben is given the chance to join an exceptional team of four students who have learned a system of counting cards to make massive amounts of money at the blackjack tables. Ben reluctantly joins, and it isn’t long before greed takes over and he loses more than he ever bargained for. 21 is inspired by the true story of five M.I.T. students who took Las Vegas by storm and, essentially, beat the system.
This movie has so many amazing qualities that it is hard to pick which one stands out the most. The performances are incredible and both Sturgess and Spacey bring their all to the table.
Sturgess (Across the Universe) puts on a realistic portrayal of a hard-working student who will stop at nothing to make his dream happen. He invokes much sympathy and support from the viewers as he takes his character on a journey. It is easy to go along for the ride with Ben as he goes through his highs and lows.
Spacey (American Beauty) gives a standout performance as the intelligent professor and mentor who develops a highly successful blackjack system. Spacey is so talented that nothing less than an exceptional performance could be expected of him and he delivers just that.
On their own, Spacey and Sturgess put on a great show, but together they really light up the screen. The on-screen chemistry is remarkable and the viewers can easily believe the mentor relationship created between Mickey and Ben.
While Spacey and Sturgess are incredible, they aren’t the only actors who make this movie enticing. 21 is composed of a relatively grade-A cast with Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns) playing Jill Taylor, the love interest and accomplice to Ben. Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) is another who adds to this movie with his harsh portrayal as the head of security at various casinos throughout Las Vegas.
Not only does 21 have exceptional performances, it also has a great soundtrack and visual quality. The music adds depth and excitement, often following the fast-paced action of this movie. The visuals really make this movie shine, with scenery and montages that are pleasing to the eye.
One of the best parts about this movie is its focus on the realistic financial difficulties of attending college. Everyone, especially college students, can relate to this aspect of the movie. A student can have an impeccable academic record, much like Ben, but still have trouble attending college because of the high cost of tuition. Focusing on this point really adds to the overall realistic quality of this movie.
21 is a great movie with an interesting plot and an even better ending. There is hardly a dull moment in this film, and viewers are sure to be pleased as they watch one boy give his all for his dream. Most importantly, this film shows how five intelligent students shook things up in Vegas and beat what was considered an unbeatable system. 21 is definitely, as they say in blackjack, a “winner, winner, chicken dinner!”