Movie Review – Babel (2006)

Director: Alejando Gonzalez Inarritu

Stars: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Mohamed Akhzam….loads of other people (cast list at IMDB is way to annoying and long to go through).

In Morroco two Americans get caught in a shooting. In Mexico a nanny takes two American children across the border so that she can attend her son’s funeral. In Japan a deaf girl tries to find a link to the world through sexuality but always chooses the wrong men and the wrong situations in which to express it.

Babel is a globe-spanning story that interlinks different stories in very subtle ways. It shows the differences in cultures and the way people are treated, yet it also shows similarities in the way that humans deal with loss and love. It’s a very emotional story, although it takes a while to get going as you wonder how the stories actually link together, and in once case it’s not until the end that you realize how it all ties together. It’s a very intelligent film, and in places it’s very touching.

Pitt and Blanchett will be the first names that attract people, but while they have the most star power their story is given perhaps the least attention, and they don’t really have too much to do. The strength lies with the other characters. They all had their own unique problems. I liked the relationship between the two Moroccan brothers, but I found the Japanese story to be the most captivating.

At first I was going to criticize Babel since the American couple were the only ones who had anything resembling a happy ending, and it seemed to be pandering to the Hollywood mentality that America is #1. Yet the more I thought about it the more that it comes off as a critique of that attitude, and I admire the way it was subtly done, like the contrast of the behavior of the border patrol when somebody is distressed compared with the treatment of American tourists when a shooting happened. And again, with the shooting it causes a great panic because the American assumption is that it’s a terrorist attack, yet this is shown to be a knee-jerk reaction borne of paranoia. The other main theme is that our actions, no matter how small, can have global consequences, and I really liked how the film tied together the final sequence with the beginning of the film.

It’s a deep film with a lot of substance but it doesn’t feel heavy, although it can be a little slow to get started. I really enjoyed it though and I’d recommend it if you haven’t seen it already, just don’t expect the film to focus on Brad Pitt.

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