Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Written by Guillermo Arriaga.
Starring Rinko Kikuchi, Brad Pitt, Boubker Ait El Caid and
Release Year: 2006
Review Date: 11/5/06
"Babel" has so much going on during its
nearly 150-minute running time that it would be tough to try and
summarize it all here. But, like director Alejandro González
Iñárritu's earlier film
"Amores Perros", "Babel" is a time-bending drama revolving
around multiple parties connected by a single violent incident, this
time the shooting of an American tourist in Morocco while she is
riding on a tour bus.
The story revolves mainly around the two
kids involved in the shooting (Boubker Ait El Caid and Said Tarchani),
a Japanese man (Kôji Yakusho) who gave the rifle used in the
shooting to the kids' father's neighbor, the Japanese guy's
deaf-mute daughter (Rinko Kikuchi), the American woman who was shot
(Cate Blanchett) and her husband (Brad Pitt), and the Americans'
immigrant nanny (Adriana Barraza), who is watching the Americans'
two children (Elle Fanning and Nathan Gamble) in San Diego at the
time of the shooting.
There are multiple plots and subplots here
to get into, but they are better left for just going to the movie
theater and seeing for yourself. Iñárritu, who also did
"21 Grams" a
couple years back, does have a great touch with drama; some of the
sequences in "Babel" will probably be called "brilliant" or
"awe-inspiring" by people that get paid to talk about movies, and
they would be right; even in scenes where you can see the cards he
is trying to play (like, any time the Border Patrol is involved, as
a small example), he makes you see both sides of an argument in a
way that you might not have considered before. With a cast
this big, it's amazing that Iñárritu got this many big stars to sign
on; many of the bigger names have the smallest parts, so the lean on
unknowns to carry the film is of paramount importance.
Which gets me to what I think will be the
film's biggest hurdle for some people if they read any reviews--the
marketing campaign for "Babel" features not only Pitt, but Blanchett,
Yakusho (big in Japan; he was in a small part of
"Memoirs of a Geisha" last year) and Gael Garcia Bernal,
everyone's favorite. The four of them, collectively, are in
something like twenty minutes of the film. Seriously. If
you love Brad Pitt and you're going to "Babel" to see Brad Pitt work
his magic, wait for the next "Ocean's XXXX" film instead. The
film's real star--and the one who gets the slight edge of screen
time--is Kikuchi, who is awesome as the deaf-mute teenager.
When you see "Babel" and you think of it from back-to-front, you
realize that the hardest thing for it to accomplish from a
production standpoint is to introduce not only a character who can't
speak, but one who lives in freakin' Tokyo and therefore requires
extra time to sign all of her lines but also to add what must have
been a few million bucks in additional costs. Why not make
that character European? In the scheme of things upfront, it
wouldn't have mattered where the kid was from, but Iñárritu seems to
have drawn up one of the most complicated films from a logistics
standpoint ever...and, in the case of the Japanese and Moroccan
segments, couldn't have done this any better from an acting
perspective. Both of the kids involved in the shooting are
excellent, and Kikuchi hits it out of the park.
When we do get our highly-touted stars, they
are all pretty good; Blanchett isn't in the film for more than a few
shots (she spends most of her time bleeding, obviously), and Bernal
is in the film long enough to kill a rooster and occasionally hang
out during a wedding sequence in Mexico. The film leans
heavily on Kikuchi, the two boys and Barraza (as the nanny), and
this was just fine...the things that they go through are powerful,
affecting stuff. My favorite scene? Probably the
sequence in the Tokyo nightclub where the deaf girl tries to win the
affections of a guy she meets earlier in the day...wow, when I go to
nightclubs, I'll never see (or hear) them the same way again.
The flick's length was a minor issue for me;
and, naturally, as with all films that have this many characters,
sometimes the ones you love don't get enough screen time, and
"Babel" is no exception to that rule. Given Iñárritu's
penchant for throwing in big tirades with characters in his films, I
was surprised with how he handled the resolution of the shooting and
the lack of a big flameout with American government officials; maybe
it was left on the cutting room floor. But, "Babel" is
otherwise strong work, something that you should check it as we move
through the holidays.
Rating: $9.50 Show
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard