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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

babel

Title:Babel
Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael García Bernal, Kôji Yakusho, Adriana Barraza, Rinko Kikuchi
Director:Alejandro González Iñárritu


Watching the trailer, following the promotion, one might get the impression that Babel is about the breakdown of communication, about language issues across the world. The trailer looks as though someone gets shot and the whole world reacts. But in actuality the film feels much smaller than that, more confined and claustrophobic in its own space.

After the death of a child a couple (Pitt and Blanchett) go on a trip to Morocco, in the hope that they’ll be able to work out the problems that have arisen between them. Unfortunately she is shot while they are on the bus, and they are rushed to the nearest town in the hope that she can receive some treatment. But things go slowly, the rest of the passengers aren’t happy about being stranded here, and Pitt goes through his frustrated/angry routine, but of course is so much more credible because he is going grey and looks like a real grown up.

In the meantime, a couple of young boys are given a rifle by their father. Told to kill coyotes, protect their flock of sheep, that their livelihood depends on. Arguing over their ability and the ability of the gun, they target a bus on the road some distance away. They fully expect nothing to happen, but when the bus pulls to a stop they start to panic. Things get worse as word of what happened gets out, and the police cruise the hills determined to catch terrorists.

Back in America, the couple have left their two children with their Mexican nanny. Which is something of an inconvenience to her, as her son is getting married. At the end of her tether, she is forced to take the two young children with her. Her nephew (Gael García Bernal) comes to pick her up, and they all spend a day at the wedding in Mexico. But when the nephew gets too drunk, getting back is a problem.

Apparently at random we then have a Japanese girl added to the equation, of course there is a connection, but it is sufficiently tenuous that one can’t help wondering why it is included at all. Chieko is a deaf teenager, being taken care of by her father after the death of her mother. In a bustling hyper cool Tokyo a deaf teenager feels excluded, almost monstrous.

Babel is the third film by Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu, and adheres to his by now tiresome approach to non-linear narrative. As such the 4 stories flick about, switching back and forth in time and stream, in a manner that I can only guess is intended to provide tension and surprise, and instead seems superfluous as there is really very little that the viewer can’t work out pretty readily. Other than why the Japanese section was included, which remains such a random thing that that has nothing to do with structure. However Babel is considerably more tightly realised than the leviathan of 21 Grams, making it somewhat easier to watch. In the end the Japanese section is strangely the most interesting, the character holding the most interest. While, on reflection, the core of the film starts to take on a lumbering worthiness, a stifling desire to say something that it approaches the obnoxiousness of Crash, though thankfully it never quite gets that appalling.

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