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Babel

Drama movie directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu

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Just Listen

  • Apr 16, 2009
  • by
Rating:
+1

In Genesis Chapter 11 it is said that men, unified under one common language, decided to build a tower that would reach to the heavens, proving that they were greater then God. They were to call this tower Babel. God, sensing that united nothing would be impossible for them, confused their languages to prevent the tower from being finished. Years later people have found the ability to learn other languages but the language barriers still causes lots of problems. None the least of which is in "Babel," where a lack of communication manages to cause much grief due to simple misunderstandings. Like "Crash" from the year before, "Babel" is not a straightforward movie. It revolves around four storylines in three countries: Mexico, Morocco, and Japan. All these stories are connected, though it may take time for this to become obvious. The first storyline revolves around two Moroccan teenagers who are playing with a gun their father just bought in order to protect their flock of sheep.

While shooting at a tour bus, they accidently shoot an American tourist (played by Cate Blanchette), which leads to the most obvious story connection in the movie. Blanchette's husband is played by Brad Pitt, who now has a wife dying of a gunshot wound, and no means of medical support. This in turn makes the family late in returning home to the states, where the family maid Amelia (Adriana Barraza) decides to take the children to Mexico with her so that she can attend her sons wedding, and finds herself having difficulty getting back into the States at the borderline. Then we hop over to Japan, where we follow a deaf girl played by Rinko Kikuchi, who feels distanced from her father (Koji Yakusho) and tries solicit her body for sex in a sadly misguided attempt at finding happiness. The connection between these stories involve everything, and yet nothing at all.

If that doesn't make much sense, let me elaborate a bit. All these stories connect to one main thread. This much is obvious, otherwise there would be no reason to have the four stories in the first place. How they all connect is what makes it interesting. Each one of these individual stories would work well as it's own movie, but is instead molded into one single narrative. Like "Crash" and "Syriana" you need to pay close attention to all the storylines, as this movie is like a jigsaw puzzle: Putting together piece by piece until you get the whole picture in plain view. If you don't have the patience for this type of film making, then it's suggested you skip this movie and watch something less complicated. Though I was a fan of "Syriana" and an even bigger fan of "Crash," I do admit my enthusiasm for this type of film making is wearing just a little bit thin. It was a novel idea with those two movies, but now I'm getting tired of the whole thing.

The one problem you have with these types of movies is that you can't really delve into the storyline of characters with too much detail. The storyline because it makes no sense outside of a basic summery, and the characters because the characterizations aren't always there. There is a huge conflict with the screenplay when it comes to the storyline revolving around the deaf Japanese teenager. Rinko Kikuchi's storyline is the most heartbreaking of the four. It's the most difficult role to play, and it's conclusion is very bittersweet. Since this storyline is the emotional high point of the movie though, it's troublesome that this storyline has two huge problems with it. The first problem is the sexual content in this storyline borders on exploitation despite it's necessity in telling the story. The second problem is that the Japanese storyline is the weakest link to the whole structure, and could have been completely cut from the movie without anyone noticing that anything was even missing (the only point the Japanese storyline serves is to show that the gun used by the Moroccan boys was given to the father by the girls father).

The fact that the most emotional storyline is easy expendable shows that this movie could have used more heart. The storyline surrounding the Moroccan boys sets off the whole storyline, yet that storyline is the least emotionally involved. The caretakers trip through the dessert is emotionally involving, yet one wonders whether or not the movie could have survived without it. Obviously the most important storyline in the movie is that of Brad Pitt, who is desperately trying to save his dying wife with nothing to work with. On a whole, I guess "Babel" works as a mild curiosity. Watching the movie certainly won't result in boredom, but how does one go back to a movie that adds up to one thing: That someone pulled the trigger and due to a lack of communication in the languages there was chaos. It's an interesting question to be sure, and one wonders whether or not the film maker would have been better off making a film trilogy instead of forcing three movies into one. It's a good movie, but I can certainly live if I never see it again.

 

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More Babel reviews
review by . March 06, 2009
With direction similar to Crash, this movie focused on the plight of three different sets of kids. Two young kids are staying with their Mexican housekeeper while their parents are traveling in Morocco. Their mother gets shot which prevents the parents from returning. The housekeeper meanwhile needs to attend her son's wedding across the boarder in Mexico. With nobody else to care for the kids and not wanting to miss the wedding, she takes the kids with her and her "shady" nephew to Mexico for the …
review by . April 28, 2009
DVD
Several stories set in places around the world are related only by a freak accident with a rifle: An American couple (Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchette) are on a tour bus in the Moroccan desert when the wife is shot by a some poor children who are trying out their new rifle. Back home in San Diego, the couple's housekeeper takes their children across the border into Mexico with near-tragic results, while the rifle is traced to a businessman in Japan.     The separate-but-ultimately-related-stories …
review by . November 01, 2008
Although this movie's very long   And jumps around quite madly   You'll find it's really all about   People behaving badly     Moroccan boys play with a gun   Without a passing thought   That shooting at a passing bus   Would wreak the wrath it wrought     A couple is vacationing   But not having much fun   They're fighting over everything   Since losing their young son …
review by . March 25, 2007
It is difficult to make one good film, but director Iñárritu manages to make three good short movies. I expected the stories to be connected in a strenuous manner. Instead, I was treated with an interesting and emotionally satisfying production that succeeds in making a point that the world is a very small place. Brad Pitt is barely recognizable with a beard and several wrinkles. But the imperfection of his features doesn't matter when compared with the realistic passion behind his performance as …
review by . March 12, 2007
With direction similar to Crash, this movie focused on the plight of three different sets of kids. Two young kids are staying with their Mexican housekeeper while their parents are traveling in Morocco. Their mother gets shot which prevents the parents from returning. The housekeeper meanwhile needs to attend her son's wedding across the boarder in Mexico. With nobody else to care for the kids and not wanting to miss the wedding, she takes the kids with her and her "shady" nephew to Mexico for the …
review by . February 24, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Story in general, acting, particularly with regards to the children      Cons: One of the storylines seems tacked on for political reasons      The Bottom Line: This is a difficult and touching story told in many languages. Not for a casual viewer. Still recommended.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.      Babel is a theme based movie rather than one driven by …
review by . February 19, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
In Genesis Chapter 11 it is said that men, unified under one common language, decided to build a tower that would reach to the heavens, proving that they were greater then God. They were to call this tower Babel. God, sensing that united nothing would be impossible for them, confused their languages to prevent the tower from being finished. Years later people have found the ability to learn other languages but the language barriers still causes lots of problems. None the least of which is in "Babel," …
review by . January 15, 2007
A towering achievement, 'Babel,' provides a great alchemy. Last year's best films often had twisty, interlocking plots that came together from fragmented lives. 'Babel' continues this trend where few films have gone since. Not only that but the beautiful cinematography (courtesy Rodrigo Prieto) and the wonderfully placed soundtrack from Gustavo Santanella (both of 'Brokeback Mountain' fame) are just a few of the nuances in this brilliant movie. Having some of the feel of 'Syriana,' 'Babel' digs …
review by . December 27, 2006
Pros: Well written story; well acted; timely.     Cons: None     The Bottom Line: Babel was in short, a stunning movie and it stayed with me long after I had left the theater, but it is a long movie so bring a cushion.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot. I am a student of the unintended consequence, which means that I also fancy myself a critical thinker. A critical thinker weighs, or at least …
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Kevin T. Rodriguez ()
Ranked #126
Kevin T. Rodriguez is an aspiring film journalist. He's more comfortable typing a review then doing an on-camera appearance, but he loves doing the occasional rant. Whether it be on movies, eBay, or comics, … more
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Brilliantly conceived, superbly directed, and beautifully acted,Babelis inarguably one of the best films of 2006. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and his co-writer, Guillermo Arriaga (the two also collaborated onAmores Perrosand21 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. YetBabelisn'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, ...
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