Imagine being thrown into a foreign country and asked to find a certain place or a certain person, but you don't speak the language and you don't know anyone.
Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu brings us an emotionally gripping story of 4 different families, each with their own unique story, but each piece added together creates the whole picture and links them all together. Babel is truly a story from the heart...and is obviously one that Inarritu feels very strongly about. It is a movie that is determined to explore the language and culture boundaries we are presented with everyday. It is a movie that is hard to watch because of how real it is, but impossible to turn away from. "Pain is universal...but so is hope."
Richard (Brad Pitt) and Susan (Cate Blanchett) are on a tour bus in Morocco, trying to get some space after a recent family tragedy. Their two children are left behind in San Diego with the nanny Amelia (Adriana Barraza). She is desperately trying to find someone to watch the kids for just one day. Her only son is getting married in Mexico and she can't miss it. Knowing that Richard and Susan are not coming back for a while, Amelia decides to take the kids with her and her hotheaded nephew (Gael Garcia Bernal) into Mexico without parental consent. After the wedding Amelia and her nephew start to drive the kids back home only to be stopped by border patrol--things get a little frantic and the end result is Amelia and the kids wandering alone in the hot desert with no one to help them.
Back in Morocco two young sons (Said Tarchani & Boubker Ait El) of a goat herder (Mustapha Rachidi) take potshots at passing cars in the Moroccan desert, betting one another that their gun can't shoot that far. When a tourist bus passes the boys take aim and fire, causing the bus to stop. The two boys run back home and hide the gun--not knowing if they hit anyone. Susan has been shot, causing a panic on the tour bus, and they are hours away from the nearest hospital. Caught in a race against time, Richard must struggle through both language and culture barriers as he tries to find a doctor to save his wife's life, notify the U.S. Embassy, and get Susan to a hospital. The event is media-hyped into a terrorist attack and as Moroccan and U.S. authorities argue whether it was or wasn't, the local Moroccan police follow the clues left by the boys and brutally hunt down the culprits.
On the other side of the world in Tokyo, Yasujiro (Koji Yakusho) has recently lost his wife. As he tries to cope with such a painful loss, he must also try to help his deaf-mute teenage daughter as she struggles with the loss of her mother and life in general. Chieko (the daughter, played by Rinko Kikuchi) just wants to be loved. With no mother, a busy father, and difficultly finding understanding friends or boyfriends, she is angry at the world and her disability. Chieko does whatever it takes to try and find someone who will love her for who she is...from drugs and alcohol to trying to force herself onto older men. Within this tangle of chaos, the police are trying to question her father again, but instead of questions surrounding the events the mother's death, they are seeking the answer to how Yasujiro's rifle was used all the way over in Morocco in the shooting of an American tourist.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu does an incredible job with Babel. The cinematography and direction are outstanding. You can really feel his soul-searching as the movie explores a world in crisis, broken families, and the disorientation that is daily life in our busy, modern civilization. The emotional moments and unexpected humor are so amazingly genuine--Richard holding back sobs as he talks to his son while he waits for word on Susan's condition, Susan refusing to add ice to their hot Coke's because of how she feels about Morocco, the goat herders terror after hearing what his sons have done, and so much more.
Babel is one of those movies where you love it...or you hate it. Some might find it hard to follow with the way Inarritu jumps between families and the timeline...as well as the chain of connections. I am on the love it side. I found the frantic nature to be the most propelling part of the film. It makes you pay close attention and draws you into the whole story...not just the pieces of the story but the whole big picture and the intertwined lives of all the families. It makes us feel as though we are a part of all this madness.
One word...Amazing. 1.85:1 widescreen and 1080p video. I loved the presentation of Babel. The video was stunning--as the movie progressed you could really tell they worked very hard to make it look as good as it did. There were some extremely bright scenes that aren't going to wow you like a film shot in high-def, but it will definitely wow you in the style. The noise that was present in the video was completely acceptable, and even welcomed. I really enjoyed the noise when it came to the Moroccan desert...the dirty-gritty feel helped me feel as though I was there. My only complaint was in Tokyo; the grain was an unfortunate addition really. I would have liked to see it be the best video in the entire movie. One scene in particular when Chieko went to a club with her friends in downtown Tokyo, it could have be fantastic. It was good, don't get me wrong, but I would have loved to see the colors explode in this scene.
Good presentation for a film that does not need an incredible soundtrack (no big huge explosions or uses for intense surround sound). But all around a nice track that is well suited for the movie. I was never distracted by highs or lows and was able to really get into the film as the sound helped progress me through the movie. Considering that Babel is dialogue driven, the sound delivers very well for that purpose. I can comfortably give Babel a good sound review.
Nothing to be seen here.
Babel is one of those movies that will definitely take more then one viewing to truly appreciate all the complexity it has to offer. I honestly haven't been so enthralled in a movie for a long time. Babel doesn't have anything bad going for it: a truly compelling storyline, great character development for all 4 families, one of the better video transfers that I have seen, and a solid audio track. Although there will definitely be some people out there that might not enjoy Babel to it's full extent, I highly recommend this one.