Film Reviews

Babel Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Rating - 8/10

Babel blends three different storylines from three different parts of the world and plays a bit with the chronology of events to captivate viewers, smartly and artfully tying it all together by the film's end.

We first are introduced to a Moroccan man and his family in a rocky, seemingly uninhabitable desert landscape raising goats for a living. In order to protect his herd from unrelenting jackals in the area, the father purchases a rifle and teaches his two sons how to use it instructing them to fire at will upon seeing any. One afternoon they decide to test the rifle by aiming at a car, but the two agree that the gun is faulty due to the lack of reaction by the driver. The younger boy tries another time aiming at an approaching bus. When they see the bus swerve and slow to a stop, they realize how foolish they'd been and run home to hide.

Richard (Brad Pitt) and Susan (Cate Blanchett) are a married couple on a Moroccan vacation in what appears to be an attempt to save their marriage. While on a bus tour Richard hears a "pop" and after Susan slumps a bit he notices she's been shot. The couple is left to accept the only medical aid within a four hour radius, which amounts to a dirt floor in a hut and a doctor who is several miles away, while the rest of those on the tour bus grow weary, hot and restless. Richard begs them for patience while they try to stabilize his wife, and wait for help to arrive.

In the next segment we jump to southern California, where a Mexican nanny, Amelia (Adriana Barraza) is watching over two young children in a middle-class suburban type home. Circumstances find her stuck with the children on the same weekend her son is to be married in Mexico. She desperately looks for relatives or friends to take care of them, but nobody is available. She decides she has no other option than to bring the two children with her to Mexico. The landscape across the border is drastically different, and vividly filmed for a wonderful effect of uncertainty by the children. Upon returning, problems arise at the border with a hotheaded border patroller and her nephew Santiago (Gael Garcia Bernal) makes a terrible decision to blast through the gate in the U.S., then kicking Amelia and the children out in the desert, promising to return the next day when it's safe. Amelia and the children are left stranded in the desert, with no food or water, and very few options.

The third story focuses on a young deaf Japanese girl, Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi), struggling with her place in society. The suicide of her mother and her disability seem to amplify all the coming-of-age problems Chieko is facing. She tries seeking validation through her sexuality, only to find herself even more frustrated. This part of the movie seems unrelated until we find out her father is being sought out by local police for what Chieko believes is questioning regarding her mother's suicide, but what actually turns out to be the final piece connecting all three stories.

Written by Guillermo Arriaga and Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams), we can expect not to be spoon-fed a plot, and Babel does jump around a bit, threading each story delicately but not loosely, which makes the film engaging if not a bit challenging at times to tie together. If the old big Hollywood blockbusters bore you or leave you under whelmed, Babel is a great exit from monotony and predictability. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett do a great job of expressing the myriad of emotions that must run through the minds of people faced with such unfamiliar conditions. Their performances leave you not seeing "Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett" as much as Richard and Susan, which is saying something when you're a household name. Gael Garcia Bernal, also noteworthy, has a fairly small role. For the rest of the characters we see a multitude of fresh faces and wonderful acting, helping to really draw viewers into a somewhat complex story.