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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 Rob Gonsalves

"Time to do something else, Alejandro."
2 stars

A group of intertwined stories told in non-linear fashion, designed to make a larger point about one of the Great Themes of Life: the Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu has built a nice career on just such films. 2000's "Amores Perros" employed the structure beautifully, 2003's "21 Grams" far less so. Now there is "Babel," which lashes together four stories of brutally broken humanity to illustrate that, in this world, what we have here is a failure to communicate.

"Listen," the film's ads admonish. I did. What I heard was a good deal of sound and fury signifying very little, and the few moments of insight or power are parcelled out over two hours and twenty-two minutes. I loved Amores Perros and still consider González Iñárritu one of the more excitingly ambitious filmmakers at large, but having done the same narrative dance three times, he should really move on.

I'll see if I can synopsize this thing coherently. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett play a tormented married couple on vacation in Morocco. Out of nowhere, a bullet strikes the tour bus they're in and hits Blanchett in the neck. The bullet comes from the rifle of a Moroccan man whose two young sons are testing the distance of the bullets; unfortunately, they pick the tour bus as a target, not really expecting to hit it. Pitt and Blanchett's own two kids have been left in the care of a Mexican maid (Adriana Barraza) who needs to attend her son's wedding back home across the border and totes the kids along with her (though not before exhausting all other options). Seemingly incongruously, we also go to Japan and meet a deaf-mute high-school girl (Rinko Kikuchi) who responds to her mother's suicide with the worst case of Japanese sexual acting-out since In the Realm of the Senses.

Some of this is forcefully handled -- the undramatic bullet impact and Blanchett's frighteningly underplayed immediate response; the Japanese girl standing naked before a baffled detective; the maid hysterical, stranded in the desert in red dress and heels -- and it's all well-acted. But the impact is scattershot; the structure lacks the crackling simultaneity of Amores Perros, wherein the disparate characters seemed linked by something more mystical than mere plot contrivance. We felt the connections there; in Babel we intellectually connect the dots, at the expense of emotional coherence. Like Martin Scorsese's The Departed and Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia, this is yet another master filmmaker's empty exercise treading familiar ground.

Bizarrely (coming from a Mexican director), the Mexican storyline shows humanity at its most desperately stupid. Gael García Bernal, who rose to international fame after Amores Perros, drops by here as the maid's irresponsible nephew, who shoots off a gun at the wedding, gets drunk, and attempts to drive her and the kids back across the border in the middle of the night. What follows stretches credibility so far that we can feel this storyline missing its presumed point (the agonies of immigration) by a mile. We never do find out what happens to Bernal's character, either. González Iñárritu may simply be familiar enough with Mexican culture to feel comfortable portraying the few Mexican characters as fools, but it has the unfortunate effect of adding to the white characters' burden.

Babel may be intended as the conclusion of a thematic trilogy for González Iñárritu and his writing partner Guillermo Arriaga. People have compared it to 2005's Oscar-winner Crash, but, taken together with the other two González Iñárritu films, it's really more like Krzysztof Kieslowski's Decalogue -- moral tales about normal people in abnormal situations. Amores Perros had that sort of depth effortlessly, but Babel strains for it and falls depressingly short.

I can applaud the effort and the intention, but the actual thing on the screen is a lumbering, stitched-together mess. Since González Iñárritu has now finished this trilogy, I look forward to what he does next.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15013&reviewer=416
originally posted: 11/12/06 21:20:54
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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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