Babel (2006)

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 6.9/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 9/10

BABEL (2006) - Alejandro González Iñárritu

In the Book of Genesis of the Bible, the Tower of Babel is a tower whose top reaches Heaven, obstructed by clouds, built by a united humanity of generations, speaking a single language. After seeing the humans, God said that they are one people with one language. and "nothing will be withheld from them which they purpose to do." As a result, He came down, scattered the people all across the globe, and confused their languages.

Babel is a film that explores humanity's fundamental inability to communicate, no matter who they are or where they come from. Despite having the advanced technology today, society is in desperate need of communication, yet it is a feat that is impossible to achieve. In this astonishing film, there are no heroes or villains, just victims of situations and tragic circumstances, and the themes unfold through four interlinked stories. As the narrative progresses, these four stories jump back and forth from one another.

The first story is set in the hot barren land of Morroco, and revolves around a family in which the father purchases a rifle for his sons to use in watching over their goats and scaring away jackals. While trying the weapon out, one of the sons hits a tourist bus, shooting an American tourist in the shoulder.

This connects to the second story, which follows Richard (Brad Pitt) and Susan Jones (Cate Blanchett), a married couple vacationing in Morocco. Here, it is Susan who is shot, and fatally wounded, as Richard and the tour guide struggle to get medical help and call for an ambulance.

The third story takes place in San Diego, and centers on a Mexican nanny (Adriana Barraza) who takes care of the Jones' two kids. Being unexpectedly demanded to take care of the children for an extra day, the same day as her son's wedding in Mexico, she comes across a dilemma and finally chooses to take the kids with her.

The fourth and final story resides in Japan, and revolves around a young deaf and mute girl named Chieko (Rinko Kinkuchi). Her father is an avid hunter, and is soon revealed to be the man who gave away his rifle as a gift during a trip in Morocco. The family relationship is a shaken one, since they are both struggling to overcome the mother's suicide. Along the way, Chieko yearns for male acceptance, shielded and blocked by her own disability, and slowly becomes sexually frustrated.

As I said before, Babel is not a film that portrays a certain culture being malevolent and violent. Instead, we are given several cultures that try to act their culture, but are, what Roger Ebert calls, "handicapped by misperceptions." As a result, one of the film's strongest component is the characterization, and director Iñárritu does it with great precision. In filmmaking, the story is always key on the characters' motivations, and here, we end up pitying them even if we will deal with their situations differently. In the end, these characters are not us, and we are not them. Imitating the frustrating aspects of life communication, Iñárritu also chooses what to tell the audience and what to keep unknown...

Similar to other strong hyperlink films like CrashBabel is well supplied with terrific acting, from both Pitt and Kinkuchi, the latter one being nominated for Best Supporting Actress, as they deliver sharp dialogue that zip back and forth among strangers, friends, and family members. At some moments, Pitt's character can be the stereotypical selfish American, in which he scolds foreigners in a language that's alien to them. At other moments, he is frightened over the idea of losing his wife. There is a scene with a payphone where you cannot help but feel what Pitt's character is going through. There is also a very quick moment in the second half of the film that has to do with money. The moment lasted less than ten seconds, yet it represents the very core ideas that Babel is pontificating.

In conclusion, Babel is one of the best films of 2006, a moral gem that shines something as important as it is thought-provoking. With Iñárritu delivering gritty filmmaking with an intention lack of smooth gliding shots and pompous manual focus shots, the film comes forth as a humorless one, a tragic uncompromising tale of humanity's truth. Anchored by powerful performances and ingenious storytelling, Babel is a beautifully woeful and riveting examination of life.


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