In Babel, a tragic incident involving an American couple in Morocco sparks a chain of events for four families in different countries throughout the world. In the struggle to overcome isolation, fear, and displacement, each character discovers that it is family that ultimately provides solace.
In the remote sands of the Moroccan desert, a rifle shot rings out-- detonating a chain of events that will link an American tourist couples frantic struggle to survive, two Moroccan boys involved in an accidental crime, a nanny illegally crossing into Mexico with two American children, and a Japanese teen rebel whose father is sought by the police in Tokyo. Separated by clashing cultures and sprawling distances, each of these four disparate groups of people are nevertheless hurtling towards a shared destiny of isolation and grief. In the course of just a few days, they will each face the dizzying sensation of becoming profoundly lost lost in the desert, lost to the world, lost to themselves as they are pushed to the farthest edges of confusion and fear as well as to the very depths of connection and love.
In this mesmerizing, emotional film that was shot in three continents and four languages and traverses both the deeply personal and the explosively political -- acclaimed director Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams, Amores Perros) explores with shattering realism the nature of the barriers that seem to separate humankind. In doing so, he evokes the ancient concept of Babel> and questions its modern day implications: the mistaken identities, misunderstandings and missed chances for communication that-- though often unseen-- drive our contemporary lives. Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael García Bernal, Kôji Yakusho, Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi lead an international ensemble of actors and non-professional actors from Morocco, Tijuana and Tokyo, who enrich Babels take on cultural diversity and enhance its powerful examination of the links and frontiers between and within us.
Brilliantly conceived, superbly directed, and beautifully acted, Babel is inarguably one of the best films of 2006. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and his co-writer, Guillermo Arriaga (the two also collaborated on Amores Perros and 21 Grams) weave together the disparate strands of their story into a finely hewn fabric by focusing on what appear to be several equally incongruent characters: an American (Brad Pitt) touring Morocco with his wife (Cate Blanchett) become the focus of an international incident also involving a hardscrabble Moroccan farmer (Mustapha Rachidi) struggling to keep his two young sons in line and his family together. A San Diego nanny (Adriana Barraza), her employers absent, makes the disastrous decision to take their kids with her to a wedding in Mexico. And a deaf-mute Japanese teen (the extraordinary Rinko Kikuchi) deals with a relationship with her father (Koji Yakusho) and the world in general that's been upended by the death of her mother. It is perhaps not surprising, or particularly original, that a gun is the device that ties these people together. Yet Babel isn't merely about violence and its tragic consequences. It's about communication, and especially the lack of it--both intercultural, raising issues like terrorism and immigration, and intracultural, as basic as husbands talking to their wives and parents understanding their children. Iñárritu's command of his medium, sound and visual alike, is extraordinary; the camera work is by turns kinetic and restrained, the music always well matched to the scenes, the editing deft but not confusing, and the film (which clocks in at a lengthy 143 minutes) is filled with indelible moments. Many of those moments are also pretty stark and grim, and no will claim that all of this leads to a "happy" ending, but there is a sense of reconciliation, perhaps even resolution. "If You Want to be Understood... Listen," goes the tagline. And if you want a movie that will leave you thinking, Babel is it. --Sam Graham
Other Interweaving Storylines on DVD
Other DVDs by Director Alejandro González Iñárritu
Why We Love Cate Blanchett
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However, just when you wonder what is happening with all the unrelated shifts there comes the realization they are related. The suspense builds in Morocco and you think you will get to see what happens next and then - Mexico or Japan.
Eventually as the plots thicken again and again you are surprised by each turn. The endings are uneven in terms of tying a neat bow on each drama, i.e., there are different ways to interpret the concluding scene in each setting. In my case, the episode in Japan left me wondering "is that all?"
Brad Pitt is good. It's debatable, however, if this movie is his best film performance. If you enjoy suspense, you will like this movie.
BABEL tells four interconnected stories in four languages. The link for all is a Winchester rifle that once belonged to a Japanese businessman. Perhaps the most compelling of these situations involves that man's teen daughter, a chronically depressed deaf mute who's obsessed with a police detective.
Director Alejandro González Iñárritu gives us enough information along the way to hold our interest, revealing facts when necessary or timely. For instance, we don't learn of the rifle's origin and its chain of owners until well after an unintended injury occurs.
There's troubling events in all of this film's locations: Morocco, Japan, Mexico, and to a lesser extent, California. A mostly unknown cast give naturalistic performances, some of which will haunt you long after the credits start to roll.
Highest recommendation for a brilliant motion picture.