By Henry Barsch ‘20
Coronavirus is upon us. As we are pretty much stuck inside all day, we all need a getaway from the boredom that grips us all.
It is almost as if the week molds together into one long day with not much to do.
But fear not! Streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu are here to save our skins.
A movie I have watched recently on Netflix is “21,” a gambling thriller with a bit of action towards the end of the film. The film was released in 2008 and was a box office success, but a critical failure. It is based loosely off the real MIT blackjack team. The story is really exciting and enticing, and the twists and turns of the plot really have you thinking hard.
A professor at MIT, Mickey Rosa, takes an interest in one of his brighter students, Ben Campbell. In class, Ben demonstrates his understanding of chance and his grasp of the concept of variable change. Ben is a very hard worker and is attempting to make ends meet so he can attend Harvard Medical School, but he is having doubts.
Fate comes knocking Ben’s way when Mr. Rosa offers him a spot on the blackjack team at MIT. The team essentially “counts cards,” which is a sophisticated way of narrowing odds for blackjack. It is legal, but highly frowned upon at every casino. Ben is very conflicted at first, as he must help his friends in a science contest. He chooses to join because he sees the easy way out of financing medical school. Can you blame him?
Conspiracy, scandal, and the fight for survival ensue as the group bonds and learns more about the gambling world.
Kevin Spacey plays the brilliant professor Rosa and does an excellent job doing so. His character development during and throughout the film from an ordinary teacher to a cutthroat blackjack gambler is serious.
Ben Campbell, played by Jim Sturgess, is a relatable college kid. He has a huge workload, a job, and responsibilities to his friends. He comes across as super confident and smart, which is what attracted Rosa to him. Sturgess does a good job of working the college kid role, and Ben ends up growing as a character throughout the movie.
The supporting cast is a little disappointing, but gets the job done. Each character, whether it be Ben’s friends Miles and Cam or the rest of the card team, have only a minor role. Each character does not bring too much to the table, other than advancing the plot. Fisher does cause a bit of tension, but it is easily dismissed.
The movie overall is really a good watch. It pulls you in and shows a perspective that is never really explored: gamblers who try and cheat the system and the men paid to stop them. This makes the movie’s premise unique and really helps it separate from the rest of the pack.
“21” does have its shortcomings, however, especially in supporting characters. The main characters of Rosa and Campbell are terrific and really pull the movie ahead.
Since you have so much extra time this week and for the foreseeable future, why not give “21’ a watch? It is a good film that will leave you excited and bittersweet.