Movies / Movie Reviews


By Al Kratina
Nov 17, 2006 - 15:06

2006, USA

Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Mohamed Akhzam, Adriana Barraza

Directed by: Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu

Written by: Guillermo Arriaga (screenplay and idea), Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu (idea)

Produced by: Steve Golin, Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, Jon Kilik,

Genres: Drama

Release Date: November 10, 2006

MPAA Rating: Rated R for violence, some graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use

Running Time: 142 minutes

Every film has a message, a meaning implicit or explicit embedded in its very fabric. Sometimes, that message is relevant and profound, like the messages of hope and redemption found in the films of Martin Scorsese. And sometimes, they remind you not to step on butterflies while traveling through time hunting dinosaurs. In the case of Babel, the message is about the breakdown of communication, which means that if you don't understand it, you're getting the point. I think.

Babel is the latest film from Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, a filmmaker who specializes in making lengthy dramas massive in scope feel like minute character studies. The film intertwines four stories, loosely connected by a rifle, and strongly related by their themes of miscommunication. Essentially, the structure is like Pulp Fiction without quite so much cocaine ramping up the dialogue. Or, more accurately, it's exactly like Amores Perros and 28 Grams and every other movie Inarritu has made or will ever make. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett play an American couple traveling in Morocco, when Blanchett is shot in what initially appears to be a terrorist attack. As Pitt struggles to find help for his wife, mired in bureaucracy and language barriers, the shooters, in actuality two young kids playing around with their father's rifle, struggle to hide their guilt. In America, the couple's Mexican nanny is forced to bring their two children to her son's wedding in Mexico, and in Japan, the original owner of gun struggles to communicate with his deaf daughter.

Despite having a structure that mirrors Traffic or the labyrinthine Syriana, Babel is not a plot heavy film. That's not to say that it rambles more than most Hollywood pictures flirting with art film aesthetic just long enough to get an Oscar nomination, but rather that the story is less important than the characters, their reactions, and the overarching theme. If any of this sounds boring, it's because it is, but that doesn't mean that it's not interesting. All the performers are excellent, with many of the lesser roles distinguishing themselves alongside the always-powerful Cate Blanchette and the consistently strong Pitt. Brad Pitt is always somewhat of a revelation. Despite looking like a surfer who turned 40 on the drive between Laguna Beach and Venice, Pitt commits to every role he undertakes, and Babel is no exception. Rinko Kikuchi, who plays the young deaf woman, stands out amongst them all, however, as her frustration at being shut out of verbal communication leads her to a nymphetic desire for physical communication. Though this story feels the most displaced of the four, taken on its own terms it’s the strongest of the four, and the one that makes this film's message the most explicit. That aside, Babel doesn’t mesh together as well as it should, or could, but it still has its moments of genius. The film's exotic locales are given the standard gritty, handheld look, as if no place outside of Southern California can afford tripods, but if the cliché isn't broken, I suppose there's no need to fix it. On the whole, despite the film’s flaws, it's refreshing to see a Hollywood film with name actors that isn't a star vehicle or an event picture, but the film’s tendency to wander ultimately makes it feel unsatisfying. Inarritu has a lot to say about the communication barriers that exist between us, but he takes a long time to say it, so by the end we're not really listening.

Rating: 6 on 10



Last Updated: Jun 26, 2018 - 9:28

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