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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 MP Bartley

"Thankfully two stars out of five means the same in every language."
2 stars

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu was hailed with great reverence when his debut, Amores Perros, a great big, furious, ball of a film hit English speaking shores - a hit that he repeated with Hollywood stars in the similarly splintered 21 Grams. All that Babel shows however is that not only is his message getting stale - people's attitudes to each other suck - but his method of delivery is getting pretty tiresome too.

The best way to sum up the fractured, multi-country, multi-character narrative of Babel is through bullet points (which is ironic in itself). To whit -

- Richard (Brad Pitt) and Susan (Cate Blanchett) are American tourists in Morocco, trying to repair their bitter marriage. This is a situation drastically altered however, when Susan is shot on a bus by a mysterious assailant, whilst travelling through the mountains and they make an emergency detour to the nearest village, where they have to rely on the primitive methods of medicine to save her. Richard desperately tries to get Susan flown to the nearest hospital, but the shooting has caused a diplomatic incident and Susan's worsening condition quickly becomes secondary to the international reprecussions.

- The shot came from the two young sons of a local goat herder, who were trying out their father's new rifle and used the coach as target practice, and now face the wrath of the equally trigger happy local police.

- Meanwhile in America, a Mexican nanny, Amelia (Adrianna Barraza), takes the two young children she is charged with, over the border for a family wedding without the parent's permission. Predictably it all ends in tears.

- Lastly, in Japan, a deaf and dumb school girl, Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi), is angry at the way she is patronised in the world, angry at her father for the death of her mother and uses her growing sexuality in the most awkward of ways - trying to get a decent filling at the dentists for example.

These four storylines all ricochet off each other and have deep rooted links with each other, as Inarritu plays with time once more, showing us pieces of the narrative out of sequence and letting the audience put them together again. While it is admirable that Inarritu has that much faith in his audience, it is clear that he is only doing this in Babel, because he doesn't that much faith in his material - for good reason as he isn't saying anything remotely new here. While Amores Perros bristled with unpredictable anger because of its jagged narrative, and 21 Grams created the feeling of unstoppable tragedy by showing us events out of sequence, Babel achieves nothing with this trick. If coincidence is the new manna from heaven for 'serious' filmmakers (see also Paul Haggis' Crash[/b)], it has also become contrivance of the highest kind.

The link between Richard and Susan and Amelia is so appallingly obvious, it insults our intelligence when Inarritu fills the gaps in blatantly by the films end and the Chieko connection is so tenuous it stretches disbelief that Inarritu believes it would make him seem clever. While creating a sprawling, interconnected storyline may be a lofty ambition, it is utterly negated when it is told in such a dull manner as it is here. We don't remotely care about the unlikeable Richard and Susan, and the Chieko storyline is so bizarre it is completely out of place and never resonates. Amelia's Mexican misadventure is the only story that has an emotional punch to it, but is undermined by the curious subtext that Mexican's are stupid and make life difficult for the rich white folk.

Inarritu's central message is, as ever, shrouded in cloudy pessimism and is a dreary, depressing rumination on how much life sucks sometimes. There's nothing wrong with pessimism, sometimes it can be a refreshing, bitter respite from Hollywood's normally sunny outlook on life, but here it's a smug and patronising pessimism that has the demeanour of a 14 year old goth, just dumped by his first girlfriend and who has retreated to his bedroom to write reams of awful poetry. It's a grim scenario that'll make you go and google pictures of basset hound puppies just to cheer you up afterwards. The dreary set up is reflected in the appropriately dreary performances. There's something terribly perverse about taking the best actress in the world today and saddling her with a role that requires little more than lying on the floor looking pale and gasping for air, and Blanchett can do little with it. Kikuchi is intense but her role is so badly underdeveloped it's all sound and fury signfying nothing, and she's the most lost out of everyone.

Barraza gets the most empathy out of her situation, but again is too underdeveloped to really work, although it's her story that demands the most attention. Brad Pitt meanwhile lets us know that he's in serious mode here - he's grown a beard AND it's grey! It's to little avail however, as he has nothing to do but look worried. They say a truly great actor doesn't need to act with anything else but his eyes, which shows up Pitt's tearful, telephone conversation scene at the end as the Oscar baiting clip it was so clearly designed as. Too bad the Academy wasn't fooled. Never mind Brad, at least he still gets Angelina's lips locked around his gearing stick on a regular basis.

If the central message of Babel is that everyone should communicate and get on better, I couldn't agree more. Not only would it make the world a happier place, it would also save us from the crushing self importance of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

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originally posted: 09/24/07 19:17:38
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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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