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Overall Rating

Awesome: 16.52%
Worth A Look: 13.91%
Just Average24.35%
Pretty Crappy24.35%
Sucks: 20.87%

9 reviews, 61 user ratings

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by brianorndorf

"No film this thin needs 140 minutes to figure itself out"
3 stars

“Babel” is a film that I respect, but didn’t necessarily respond to. Every tech credit is fantastic, and the performances excel appropriately, but emotion and concise storytelling are in short supply. There’s no doubt that this is a solid dramatic film, but it fails to reach the lofty goals of catharsis it sets for itself.

In this world, we are all connected by our actions.

In Morocco, a married couple (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett) suffer a horrible accident while trying to settle their marital woes. In Japan, a teenaged, deaf woman (Koji Yakusho) struggles to deal with her mourning and loneliness in a very loud and unfriendly place. In San Diego, a housekeeper (Adriana Barraza), with her son (Gael Garcia Bernal), escorts her employer’s children over the border to Mexico for a wedding, only to find getting out of the country will change her life forever.

“Babel” is intended to be the final installment of director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s trilogy exploring the human condition. The first two films, “Amores Perros” and “21 Grams,” were stark deconstructions of pain and suffering, and while they were technically phenomenal and gritty creations, they didn’t exactly unlock the curiosity of the heart.

“Babel” is Inarritu’s closing act, and it tracks the chilly atmosphere of self-destruction that the filmmaker is so fascinated with. Watching “Babel,” it’s impossible not to be impressed; Inarritu’s work depicting humanity at its breaking point is incredible, striving for realism both thematically and geographically, and scoring on both accounts. He’s an intuitive director, at his best when illustrating isolation and despair, and he lines this film up well with his previous efforts, creating an open wound of a trilogy that few directors would dare endeavor to uncover.

The tech credits are just as impressive. Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography matches Inarritu’s passion for the drama, selling the arid grit of Morocco, the bustle and alienation of Japan, and the hopelessness of Mexico in exceptional and vivid ways. “Babel” has claustrophobic qualities to it that are suffocating and beautiful all at once. One of the best shooters working today, Prieto’s pictures bring out the crucial battle of life found in Inarritu’s story (written by Guillermo Arriaga).

On the surface, I can see what “Babel” is searching to do, and I appreciate its investment in character and storytelling rooted in glances and silence; however, I found the emotion of the script and direction lacking in dynamic ways. Perhaps it has to do with familiarity with Inarritu’s scheme for the film, or maybe it’s the ways the director seems obsessed with linking these stories together that kept me at arm’s length, but I didn’t sense a heartbeat to the picture.

Partially, this is due to the film’s extravagant and unwarranted running time of 140 minutes. As many subplots as there are in “Babel,” nothing in the film warrants this amount of attention; these are thinly drawn parables of estrangement, and while they allow for plenty of interpretation from the cast, it doesn’t mean every little tic has to be included. As enlightening as he is, Inarritu is not an economical filmmaker, and his excesses hurt the impact of “Babel” in a big way.

I was also put off by the connections drawn between the stories. What begins as interesting and organic bridges built between the characters soon evolves into silly, crudely drawn intersections, like trying to connect a Lego to a Duplo. The stories are written to crash into each other at careful points in the script to best depict the fragile nature of the world’s domino effect, and some succeed well, but others, including the way the production ties the Japan story to Morocco, shatter the hold the drama has on the viewer and melt away any potential emotional reaction.

“Babel” becomes so lathered up in its drama that it loses its way, and the final 30 minutes are a slow descent to nowhere. Certainly this is a viable, commendable example of cinematic drama, but I would be surprised if, after 140 minutes of grim punishment, any audience member could be truly moved by this everlasting symphony of pain.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15013&reviewer=404
originally posted: 11/03/06 01:38:07
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Chicago Film Festival For more in the 2006 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell bleak but potent 4 stars
11/18/11 Chris. Have had a rash of movies I don't want to finish recently, finished this one. 4 stars
7/26/11 daveyt didn't get a pay-off after sitting through it all, just too random and disconnected for me 3 stars
8/31/09 Adam Film was just bleak. Very crafted view fo tragic events and consequences. Poor story links. 3 stars
8/15/09 tony Rubbish. made for highbrow dinner party arty types with nothing better to talk about 1 stars
10/29/08 David Babel calls for listening, if you say you did, and you didn't get the idea, then you didn't 5 stars
9/03/08 Alexandru Totir Very interesting movie and I like how they combined the scenes to make something unique 5 stars
6/09/08 mr.mike Very good , sustained my interest throughout. 4 stars
5/31/08 Leon Unusual and absorbing; well- dramatised C'est la Vie! of life's vagaries 4 stars
5/27/08 Matt Crap. Couldn't even get the bus-shooting scene right. 1 stars
5/24/08 Joh Hansen continuity problem with the bus going L to R and KB shot in L clavicle! 3 stars
4/21/08 Dhanu great 5 stars
4/04/08 stephanie willis enjoyed - especially the Afghan boys - thought they did a fine job - always like Blancett 5 stars
3/10/08 Jayme Isaacs Good Movie 4 stars
3/04/08 ladavies some of it worked, some didn't (Brad Pitt's storyline) 3 stars
9/27/07 Noelle Stephens It was an ok movie. It would have been better without the Japanese story line. Too much! 3 stars
9/25/07 Lenore Disappointing, shallow, but thankfully, good environments. 2 stars
8/31/07 goatfarmer Frustrating movie, beautifully shot, about frustrated people behaving recklessly 3 stars
7/10/07 wil j. Study of fateful global human interconnections; even amongst strangers who will never meet 5 stars
7/10/07 VIVEK KRISHNAN GOOD 3 stars
5/19/07 luke this movie was so stupid i would have rather eaten a cake and thrown it up 1 stars
5/14/07 Jonathan Holmes The best film of 2006, and a pity to those who can't understand Inarrtiu's geinus 5 stars
4/30/07 action movie fan good quartet in one. shooting of wife in morocco the most gripping of the bunch 4 stars
4/22/07 JeromeBosch Incredible acting, gorgeously lensed, a brilliant movie. 5 stars
4/12/07 fools♫gold That old-school drama I won't watch again; "21 Grams" was better. 3 stars
4/06/07 Anthony incredible- moving, challenging, brilliant writing and acting- loved it 5 stars
3/11/07 Jose M. Terrific and Heartfelt film . Dawn Learn how to spell against . 5 stars
3/10/07 Dickman Fragmentation of 4 pretentioius half-stories makes a kid's jigsaw puzzle, not a drama. 3 stars
3/07/07 Butt Third time is not the charm for Inarritu - boring 3 stars
3/03/07 Joe Smaltz Strange movie, strange plot, strange casting no story line 1 stars
2/26/07 Veronica Price There is nothing to explain in this moronic film. Absolutely stupid. 1 stars
2/25/07 Thomas Brown Best movie of 2006! No use trying to explain that to people who just don't get it. 5 stars
2/25/07 Stephen Drinkard Excellent film. I feel sorry for the people who couldn't understand this film. 5 stars
2/24/07 R.W.Welch Asian thread a little weak; otherwise pretty solid. 4 stars
2/14/07 ES A more accurate title would have been- 'Really Stupid Decisions' 2 stars
2/13/07 robert zimmerman probably the best film i've ever seen 5 stars
1/27/07 Cassandra Gleason Vacuous and slow-paced. Trite. Waste of 2.5 hours. 1 stars
1/22/07 Tony Vawser powerful, intense, involving, rewarding 5 stars
1/21/07 Monday Morning Only depression-junkies would like this drawn-out piece of shite. 1 stars
1/21/07 TheReelMcCoy About 30 minutes worth of "high concept" packed into two hours. 1 stars
1/17/07 Mark Iñarritu is a fraud and Gael Garcia must go back to the mexican soap operas. 1 stars
12/26/06 Agent Sands Especially right now in time in terms of both politics & everyday people, Babel's important 5 stars
12/16/06 Elizabeth Amazing! 5 stars
12/15/06 Bob Cetlin Great review of an awful movie. Impossible to enjoy even the beautiful scenery. 1 stars
11/25/06 joe total crup 1 stars
11/24/06 Greg The movie is reflective of the dichotomy and ethnocentric predicaments in the world. 4 stars
11/20/06 marie i really like it, especially the japanesse girl story! 5 stars
11/19/06 jcjs i liked it bunches and my friend didn't...lots didn't like this show...no problem i liked 4 stars
11/18/06 Ramblingdriver A tax write-off for movie studio / paycheck for actors 1 stars
11/16/06 george good idea, but badly executed. Too long + depressing.Shouldn't have cast any famous actors. 1 stars
11/16/06 FilmGoer pretty good....but what was in that final note 4 stars
11/14/06 Valerie The kid who shot the rifle was the best character/actor 2 stars
11/14/06 Jamethon I agree, Iñárritu needs to stop repeating the same formula over and over again. 1 stars
11/13/06 alex annoying and tedious as hell, twice as long as it needs to be 1 stars
11/13/06 John M Depressing, waste of time. I want my 2 hours back. 1 stars
11/13/06 Gayle Did like this movie. Would not recommend it. Brad Pitt was horrible. Hard to follow. 2 stars
11/12/06 mwpmd A total waste! Sorry excuse for political commentary and entertainment. 1 stars
11/12/06 J.Pet Brad Pitt, should consider early retirement!!! 1 stars
11/12/06 Mauricio Excellent trama, 5 stars
11/12/06 John I love this movie, very good. 5 stars
11/05/06 Timber The exquisitely tramatising need to communite: Keep this concept in your mind throughout. 5 stars
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  27-Oct-2006 (R)
  DVD: 20-Feb-2007



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