REVIEWS

Babel: One of the Year's Best Films

by
November 10, 2006

  • US Release Date: November 10, 2006
  • Genre: Drama, Thriller
  • MPAA: Rated R (for violence, some graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use)
  • Running Time: 142 minutes
  • Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu
  • on IMDb
  •    9/10
“The brightest lights in the darkest night.”

There hasn't been a lot of discussion about Babel yet, but this is a film that provides one of the most fulfilling theatrical experiences in a while. Visionary filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu explores the world's cultures and communication struggles in a vast story told in a subtle way evoking Lost in Translation but much more powerful and involving. The cast and locations are incredibly immersive and pull together naturally to present an embracing view of our world in its entirety.

Babel contains four different stories spanning three continents. A native family in Morocco is struggling with two troublemaking sons. Separately, Richard (Brad Pitt) and Susan (Cate Blanchett) are a married couple visiting Morocco still dealing with the recent death of one of their children and problems in their relationship. Meanwhile, in San Diego, illegal immigrant Amelia (Adriana Barraza) is the caretaker of two young children, Debbie (Elle Fanning) and Mike (Nathan Gamble), and decides to cross the border with her brother Santiago (Gael García Bernal) to attend her son's wedding in Mexico. In Tokyo, Yasujiro (Koji Yakusho) is the father of deaf-mute Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi); Chieko's mother committed suicide, further complicating Chieko's own struggles as an adolescent teen.

The viewer is thrown into the story of Babel without knowing who anyone is, but it's this style of introduction that really draws you into and enhances the film. As the title suggests, the film is about how communication and language connect together on a worldwide level. Iñárritu does a fantastic job demonstrating this with situations from the four stories that intertwine as the film progresses. The deaf-mute Chieko uses writing and sign language in lieu of the spoken word. During a tense near-death situation in Morocco, the participants must communicate although barely anyone speaks the same language. This is a movie where the intriguing stories are crafted perfectly by a master storyteller. It has a very absorbing and intricate feeling similar to that of Steven Soderbergh's Oscar-winning film Traffic from 2000.

Babel's soundtrack helps drive the story and keeps the flow between each continent. The musical style accompanying each scene is distinctly related to that culture as Traffic used lighting effects to subtly communicate transitions between Soderbergh's various stories. Even more engaging is the way Iñárritu presents the world's cultures in their respective locations. It's a very involving experience not found in any other films. I strongly urge that most Americans go see Babel to get an understanding for many of the world's cultures and how they differ so much from America.

Many of the actors also deserve commendation for their portrayals. Each of the primary characters has a fascinating story to tell, and at least one of the stories will appeal on a deep emotional level with everyone in an audience. All actors, especially Yakusho and Kikuchi in Tokyo, deliver outstanding performances. Pitt and Blanchett, ostensibly the stars of Babel, are given scarcely more screen time than their lesser-known counterparts in other subplots, but still add greatly to the film.

Last Word:
Babel is one of this year's best films, a very competent creation from Alejandro González Iñárritu. Although it lacks perfection slightly in its screenwriting and story in Mexico, the film offers a unique and immersive experience into the world's cultures. With a fantastic soundtrack and astonishing performances from all actors, Babel is a powerful and striking story spanning three continents. It's a must-see to truly understand the world's cultures and experience them in the way only Alejandro González Iñárritu can show.

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  • a minor mistake
    In reading your review, I can across a minor mistake in your characters. You mention that Santiago is Amelia's brother, when in fact he is her nephew. Just wanted to clarify.
  • Oleo
    Great review. The movie is one-of-a-kind. Enjoyed the read.
  • Mavin Catler
    who is brad pitts speaking to at the very end of the movie? Is it the nanny?
  • I think he's speaking too his kids... like it also showed at the beginning...
  • The Berg
    Saw III was .5 better.
  • Berg - I wrote that this was one of the best films of the year. Saw 3 was also a great one. In their each respective comparisons, Saw 3 had a higher rating, but compared against each other Babel was better.
  • I just come from the theater, totally overwhelmed by the experience. What a powerful movie, at every level! Acting, directing, cinematography, music, and the whole concept of the movie were extraordinary. Unique to this movie was also the ability of, I guess, its director, to transmit the action from the viewpoint of the local people, rather than the occasional First World interloper. Be it in Morocco, Mexico, the US-Mexican Customs and even Tokyo, where the local experience was much better portrayed than in the excellent but US-Centric "Lost in Translation". One of the best movies I have seen in many years.
  • CONRAD
    A QUESTION MORE THEN A COMMENT. DOES OF THE TWO MOROCCON BOYS DIE DURING THE CONFRONTATION AND SHOOTOUT WITH THE POLICE BEFORE THE YOUNGER BROTHER SURRENDERS
  • Jon
    It is assumed that the older brother dies because when they carry him from the rocks in the end of the film they do not seem in a hurry to take him to a hospital. Also the film was very effective in most regards however i believe at some points it was a little too harsh on the audience. Alejandro really beat the crap out of the audience in this film, but it did help communicate it's point. Still, I left the movie feeling a little emotionally drained. Over all, a very good film and it has my vote on best picture.
  • Cindy Martin
    I have looked at the video on the shelf at the movie store several times and not yet rented it. I read on the cover that it was the third in the series and wonder what the first two movies were called. I'd like to view the first two movies first.

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