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21

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I don’t know what exactly compelled me to see the movie 21 starring Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, and Kevin Spacey. Glamorous Hollywood movies aren’t usually my forte, but I thought 21 was worth a try. What caught my interest was the back story: a smart kid from MIT trying to pay for college tuition through gambling. As a high school student, I can relate to the troubles of the hard-working protagonist, Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess), shooting for his dreams of becoming a doctor, but blocked because he lacks one essential thing: money. The cost of attending Harvard medical school is $300,000, money that Ben doesn’t have, so he either has to win a full-ride scholarship or figure out some way to make enough money to pay for his tuition.
A solution to his dilemma becomes clear when his professor (Kevin Spacey), recognizes Ben’s brilliance in mathematics and invites him to join a secret team of Blackjack players who fly to Vegas every weekend to make money. They are not your ordinary gamblers. Instead of relying on luck, they use their skilled minds to count cards, guaranteeing that they will not lose. 21 felt to me like a nod to all the smart people out there who are labeled as boring or “uncool”, because it showed that even super geniuses can have Hollywood lifestyles (which are what everyone wants, right?).
At first, Ben joins the team reluctantly, hoping to make just enough money to pay for medical school and then to quit, but soon he gets swept up into the glamour, the luxury, and the partying that comes along with the weekend trips to Vegas, and he doesn’t want to give it up. He distances himself from his friends and lies to his family to keep the team a secret. He likes the emotional high of winning money too much, and he enjoys acting like someone he’s not.
The filmmakers clearly try to make the story have a moral about greed. They try to show that friends and family are more important in valuable than money and material possessions, but I don’t think they succeed in getting there message across. The only message that seems to permeate from the film is that money can buy happiness. Gambling and wealth are glorified. Although, in the end, Ben recognizes the worth of his family and friends, and everything works out well, he doesn’t have to suffer many consequences for becoming obsessed with avarice. It doesn’t seem as if he learned much from his experience.
All in all, 21 is meant to entertaining, and it succeeds at making a good, fun story to watch, but it shouldn’t be taken too seriously.





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