Babel is one of the most intelligent and artfully made films of 2006. The film has two central themes - culture and communication. It also exposes the connections between these themes in the arenas of politics, religion and geography sensitively and intelligently. The tag-line, though intentionally obtuse, sums the film up well - "If you want to be understood... Listen" - The parable is designed to speak to people all over the world who seem to believe that the meaning and importance of political boundaries somehow supersedes the value of humanity. It has especially important messages for Americans, however. And its release was well timed to coincide with an election (2006) which may, in the long term, provide some hope for American foreign policy.
The film brilliantly weaves four deeply interconnected stories engaging five cultures on three continents. The cultures are North American, Mexican, Islamic, Japanese and Japanese/deaf. At the heart of each tragedy is an inability to communicate. The tragedies begin with bad decisions that spin each plot somewhat out of control once cultural interference and miscommunication kick in.
Brad Pitt and Kate Blanchett play a troubled American couple having very little fun on a vacation in the Middle East. Susan (Blanchett) is shot by a young boy practicing with a gun (The two Middle Eastern boys who play the brothers in this film give Oscar-worthy performances, unfortunately I can't get their names out of IMDb easily). Three crises are simultaneously set off, as the Americans' nanny must find a way to attend her son's wedding in Mexico while Susan's medical crisis unfolds, and the poor Islamic family responsible for the gun begin to undergo a devastating crisis of their own. Of course the United States executive branch (not the government - sorry, we are still a democratically organized republic regardless of who sits in the oval office) interprets the crisis as an act of terrorism and a political crisis threatens to doom Susan to bleeding to death in a small remote town in the desert. Finally, in a seemingly disconnected story, Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi), a young, deaf, Japanese volleyball player is coming of age. Her mother has committed suicide and she seems bound to work out her problems with her father by devoting herself to a lascivious lifestyle.
The performances are, all around, excellent. The directing is exquisite - perfectly paced and visualized. This is a great film which, despite its commercial pedigree and big budget, achieves a rare level of artistry - proving that blockbusters do not have to be sold short. Babel will make you think, and think well. Make sure you bring your attention span and brain, however.
Very highly recommended.
Action / Drama
Action / Drama
4 interlocking stories all connected by a single gun all converge at the end and reveal a complex and tragic story of the lives of humanity around the world and how we truly aren't all that different. In Morocco, a troubled married couple are on vacation trying to work out their differences. Meanwhile, a Moroccan herder buys a rifle for his sons so they can keep the jackals away from his herd. A girl in Japan dealing with rejection, the death of her mother, the emotional distance of her father, her own self-consciousness, and a disability among many other issues, deals with modern life in the enormous metropolis of Tokyo, Japan. Then, on the opposite side of the world the married couple's Mexican nanny takes the couple's 2 children with her to her son's wedding in Mexico, only to come into trouble on the return trip. Combined, it provides a powerful story and an equally powerful looking glass into the lives of seemingly random people around the world and it shows just how connected we...
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August 16, 2011 at 01:06 PM