Babel (2006)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBBFrance/USA/Mexico, 2006.  Paramount Pictures, Paramount Vantage, Anonymous Content, Zeta Film, , Media Rights Capital.  Story by , Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Screenplay by Guillermo Arriaga.  Cinematography by .  Produced by , Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by , , .  Film Editing by , .  Academy Awards 2006.  American Film Institute 2006.  Cannes Film Festival 2006.  Golden Globe Awards 2006.  Gotham Awards 2006National Board of Review Awards 2006. Online Film Critics Awards 2006.  Toronto International Film Festival 2006.  

It sure is a tough day when being American catches up with you. A random, careless act of violence has repercussions that span the globe when two children in a dusty, Moroccan village decide to test their new rifle by aiming at a tour bus, critically injuring an American tourist (Cate Blanchett). Her husband (Brad Pitt) is forced to fight for her life in a remote part of the world while the U.S. embassy struggles through red tape to get them to safety. Back home the couple’s children have been left in the hands of their maid (Adriana Barraza), who wants to get to her son’s wedding in Mexico but can’t because Pitt won’t let her, forcing her to take his children with her to the celebration and setting in motion a chain of events with devastating consequences. In Tokyo, a deaf-mute girl (Rinko Kikuchi) deals with a city full of people constantly on overdrive who never stop to give her a moment’s worth of kindness, bounding through the streets with her friends while avoiding the policemen who have come to her door inquiring after her father. While the stories don’t have overly strong connections in a practical sense, their emotional ties are highly resonant.  The painfully obvious allegory of each character’s situation takes you out of the experience frequently, but the skillful direction and acting get you right back in with the same regularity. Pitt and Blanchett are perfectly cast as the sympathetic but ultimately spoiled Americans who have no idea that their plight isn’t the most important issue in the entire world; Blanchett especially makes her modern Adela Quested a reality beyond the obvious stereotype with very little screen time to do it, while Pitt inspires sympathy and criticism at the same time for his inability to realize that US citizenship is not a global Get Out Of Jail Free card. Barraza is heartbreaking as a woman who pushes against the economic hierarchy and suffers severely for it, while Kikuchi is mesmerizing as the one character who cannot actually listen (as opposed to the others who won’t), yet ends up hearing more. The film’s moral teachings are too obvious to make it a perfect classic, but it is never as patronizing as Crash and is certainly never for a moment boring.

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