Brilliantly conceived, superbly directed, and beautifully acted, Babel
is inarguably one of the best films of 2006. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and his co-writer, Guillermo Arriaga (the two also collaborated on Amores Perros
and 21 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. Yet Babel
isn'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, is extraordinary; the camera work is by turns kinetic and restrained, the music always well matched to the scenes, the editing deft but not confusing, and the film (which clocks in at a lengthy 143 minutes) is filled with indelible moments. Many of those moments are also pretty stark and grim, and no will claim that all of this leads to a "happy" ending, but there is a sense of reconciliation, perhaps even resolution. "If You Want to be Understood... Listen," goes the tagline. And if you want a movie that will leave you thinking, Babel
is it. --Sam Graham
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu won the prize for Best Director at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival for this powerful multi-narrative drama set in Morocco, Mexico and Tokyo. A young American couple, Richard (Brad Pitt) and Susan (Cate Blanchett), go to Morocco on holiday to restore their fragile relationship following the death of one of their children. However, they are catapulted into disaster when a rogue gunshot fired by a Moroccan farmer's young son brings Susan to the brink of death. Meanwhile, the couple's other two children have been left at home in San Diego in the care of their housekeeper Amelia (Adriana Barraza), who cannot find anyone to mind the children while she attends her son's wedding across the border in Tijuana, Mexico. She decides to take them with her, a decision that nearly costs all three their lives. In the third storyline, set in Tokyo, a teenage deaf-mute rebel, Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi), is reeling after the apparent suicide of her mother. Her attention-seeking behaviour makes her increasingly vulnerable, but can she attract the attention of the person she feels most isolated from: her father? The implications of language, whether unspoken or misunderstood, are the recurring theme in this set of interlocking tales of love, prejudice and the connections between us all.