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Overall Rating

Awesome: 16.52%
Worth A Look: 13.91%
Pretty Bad24.35%
Total Crap: 20.87%

9 reviews, 61 user ratings

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by EricDSnider

"Does for heavyhanded moralizing what 'Crash' did for heavyhanded moralizing"
3 stars

In case you didn't get the message from last year's "Crash," this year's "Babel" is here to remind you that we are all connected in this crazy world of ours, that violence ruins lives, and that we should stop being so mistrusting of foreigners. How you could possibly miss that point in a movie as obvious as "Crash," I don't know, but you definitely won't miss it after a movie as obvious as "Babel."

Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu and his writing partner, Guillermo Arriaga, made a fine team in the striking "Amores Perros." They followed it up with "21 Grams," which used the same non-linear storytelling and intersecting plots as "Perros" but with much less impact. Now, in "Babel," they're at it again, only with an unwelcome sense of self-importance and heavy-handedness. Each subsequent effort seems to dilute the formula a little more.

There are four stories of varying degrees of connectedness. In order of appearance, they concern: two young Moroccan boys, Ahmed (Said Tarchani) and Yussef (Boubker Ait El Caid), whose father gives them a rifle to help keep jackals away from the goat herd; Amelia (Adriana Barraza), a matronly Mexican housekeeper in San Diego who loves her employers' two young children as though they were her own; Richard (Brad Pitt) and Susan (Cate Blanchett), American tourists in Morocco who are waylaid by a serious accident; and Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi), a Tokyo high school student who is deaf and mute and painfully eager to explore her sexuality.

Separately, these stories are often engaging, at least in the film's first half. Amelia must take her young charges with her to her son's wedding, as their parents are gone longer than expected and Amelia can't find anyone else to babysit. Chieko flirts with drugs and other teenage ills, raging against her father since her mother's untimely death. Being deaf doesn't seem to bother her, but everything else does. And those two Moroccan boys are impish and childlike in ways that transcend all borders -- except they are children in a Muslim nation, and the epithet "terrorist" is always close at hand, ready to be applied if something unfortunate happens.

Curiously, in this exotic mix of actors and languages -- Spanish, Arabic and Japanese are all spoken (with subtitles) when appropriate -- it's the megawatt stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett who come off as least charismatic. It's partly intentional, as the two white, privileged characters are meant to be shocked to discover bad things can happen to them, too, and thus to be out of place in the "foreign" world. But it cannot have been on purpose that when the film is over, Pitt and Blanchett are the first to fade from your memory.

Eventually, their blandness spreads to the other characters, who become uninteresting due to repetition. About 100 minutes of the film are moderately engaging; the remaining 42 are redundant and drawn-out, with nearly everyone's misery being compounded by his or her own poor choices. Furthermore, Iñárritu becomes indulgent, lingering on scenes far longer than necessary, extending sequences beyond their natural limits. What is contemplative and meaningful at first becomes tiresome when you dwell on it.

Apart from some visually arresting images (at which Iñárritu has always excelled), the film has little to offer, and it's even sadder when you consider how far Iñárritu and Garriaga have fallen since "Amores Perros." That film had a crackling plot involving several sympathetic, likable characters. This one has a slow, shuffling story involving people whose miseries are often obscure and whose personalities don't inspire affinity -- and then the film is burdened further with ponderous piety. I'm thinking Iñárritu has started to believe his own press.

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originally posted: 11/10/06 19:59:05
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Chicago Film Festival For more in the 2006 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell bleak but potent 4 stars
11/19/11 Chris. Have had a rash of movies I don't want to finish recently, finished this one. 4 stars
7/26/11 daveyt didn't get a pay-off after sitting through it all, just too random and disconnected for me 3 stars
9/01/09 Adam Film was just bleak. Very crafted view fo tragic events and consequences. Poor story links. 3 stars
8/16/09 tony Rubbish. made for highbrow dinner party arty types with nothing better to talk about 1 stars
10/30/08 David Babel calls for listening, if you say you did, and you didn't get the idea, then you didn't 5 stars
9/04/08 Alexandru Totir Very interesting movie and I like how they combined the scenes to make something unique 5 stars
6/10/08 mr.mike Very good , sustained my interest throughout. 4 stars
6/01/08 Leon Unusual and absorbing; well- dramatised C'est la Vie! of life's vagaries 4 stars
5/27/08 Matt Crap. Couldn't even get the bus-shooting scene right. 1 stars
5/25/08 Joh Hansen continuity problem with the bus going L to R and KB shot in L clavicle! 3 stars
4/21/08 Dhanu great 5 stars
4/05/08 stephanie willis enjoyed - especially the Afghan boys - thought they did a fine job - always like Blancett 5 stars
3/10/08 Jayme Isaacs Good Movie 4 stars
3/05/08 ladavies some of it worked, some didn't (Brad Pitt's storyline) 3 stars
9/28/07 Noelle Stephens It was an ok movie. It would have been better without the Japanese story line. Too much! 3 stars
9/25/07 Lenore Disappointing, shallow, but thankfully, good environments. 2 stars
9/01/07 goatfarmer Frustrating movie, beautifully shot, about frustrated people behaving recklessly 3 stars
7/11/07 wil j. Study of fateful global human interconnections; even amongst strangers who will never meet 5 stars
7/11/07 VIVEK KRISHNAN GOOD 3 stars
5/20/07 luke this movie was so stupid i would have rather eaten a cake and thrown it up 1 stars
5/14/07 Jonathan Holmes The best film of 2006, and a pity to those who can't understand Inarrtiu's geinus 5 stars
5/01/07 action movie fan good quartet in one. shooting of wife in morocco the most gripping of the bunch 4 stars
4/23/07 JeromeBosch Incredible acting, gorgeously lensed, a brilliant movie. 5 stars
4/13/07 fools♫gold That old-school drama I won't watch again; "21 Grams" was better. 3 stars
4/06/07 Anthony incredible- moving, challenging, brilliant writing and acting- loved it 5 stars
3/12/07 Jose M. Terrific and Heartfelt film . Dawn Learn how to spell against . 5 stars
3/10/07 Dickman Fragmentation of 4 pretentioius half-stories makes a kid's jigsaw puzzle, not a drama. 3 stars
3/08/07 Butt Third time is not the charm for Inarritu - boring 3 stars
3/03/07 Joe Smaltz Strange movie, strange plot, strange casting no story line 1 stars
2/27/07 Veronica Price There is nothing to explain in this moronic film. Absolutely stupid. 1 stars
2/26/07 Thomas Brown Best movie of 2006! No use trying to explain that to people who just don't get it. 5 stars
2/25/07 Stephen Drinkard Excellent film. I feel sorry for the people who couldn't understand this film. 5 stars
2/25/07 R.W.Welch Asian thread a little weak; otherwise pretty solid. 4 stars
2/15/07 ES A more accurate title would have been- 'Really Stupid Decisions' 2 stars
2/13/07 robert zimmerman probably the best film i've ever seen 5 stars
1/28/07 Cassandra Gleason Vacuous and slow-paced. Trite. Waste of 2.5 hours. 1 stars
1/22/07 Tony Vawser powerful, intense, involving, rewarding 5 stars
1/22/07 Monday Morning Only depression-junkies would like this drawn-out piece of shite. 1 stars
1/21/07 TheReelMcCoy About 30 minutes worth of "high concept" packed into two hours. 1 stars
1/18/07 Mark Iñarritu is a fraud and Gael Garcia must go back to the mexican soap operas. 1 stars
12/27/06 Agent Sands Especially right now in time in terms of both politics & everyday people, Babel's important 5 stars
12/16/06 Elizabeth Amazing! 5 stars
12/16/06 Bob Cetlin Great review of an awful movie. Impossible to enjoy even the beautiful scenery. 1 stars
11/25/06 joe total crup 1 stars
11/25/06 Greg The movie is reflective of the dichotomy and ethnocentric predicaments in the world. 4 stars
11/21/06 marie i really like it, especially the japanesse girl story! 5 stars
11/19/06 jcjs i liked it bunches and my friend didn't...lots didn't like this problem i liked 4 stars
11/18/06 Ramblingdriver A tax write-off for movie studio / paycheck for actors 1 stars
11/17/06 george good idea, but badly executed. Too long + depressing.Shouldn't have cast any famous actors. 1 stars
11/17/06 FilmGoer pretty good....but what was in that final note 4 stars
11/15/06 Valerie The kid who shot the rifle was the best character/actor 2 stars
11/15/06 Jamethon I agree, Iñárritu needs to stop repeating the same formula over and over again. 1 stars
11/14/06 alex annoying and tedious as hell, twice as long as it needs to be 1 stars
11/14/06 John M Depressing, waste of time. I want my 2 hours back. 1 stars
11/14/06 Gayle Did like this movie. Would not recommend it. Brad Pitt was horrible. Hard to follow. 2 stars
11/13/06 mwpmd A total waste! Sorry excuse for political commentary and entertainment. 1 stars
11/13/06 J.Pet Brad Pitt, should consider early retirement!!! 1 stars
11/13/06 Mauricio Excellent trama, 5 stars
11/13/06 John I love this movie, very good. 5 stars
11/06/06 Timber The exquisitely tramatising need to communite: Keep this concept in your mind throughout. 5 stars
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  27-Oct-2006 (R)
  DVD: 20-Feb-2007



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