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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
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POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Brad Pitt
Cate Blanchett

Gael Garcia Bernal
Adriana Barraza .
Directors
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
Screenwriters
Guillermo Arriaga.
Running Time
143 minutes

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Babel
Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett are moving in this thoughtful international drama.


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Plot
In Morocco, two goat herders go on the lam while a holidaying man (Pitt) tries to save his wife’s (Blanchett) life. In San Diego, a nanny (Barraza) skips town with her charges as, in Japan, a deaf-mute schoolgirl (Rinko Kikuchi) tries to lose her virginity.


Review
Babel
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Falling into the Interlocking Stories Used To Make A Big Point About The Human Condition subgenre (see also Grand Canyon, Crash), Alejandro González Iñárritu’s riveting closure to the trilogy he started with Amores Perros and 21 Grams boasts a bigger dramatic, thematic and cinematic appetite than most directors muster in an entire career. Babel takes the multiple-stories-over-shifting-time-frames gambit of its predecessors but plays it over the whole globe, as a single act of kindness reverberates with shattering consequences around Morocco, the US, Mexico and Japan (happily, the ripples never reach Lyme Regis). The result is terrific cinema, built on across-the-board great performances, searing imagery, heart-stopping moments and surprising flashes of humour, all coalescing into a raw vision of a world in tatters.
 
Iñárritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga skilfully juggle and juxtapose the intersecting stories, carefully building up dread and emotional tension as you try to figure out how the stories fit together and how they will play out. But what is more astonishing is Babel’s scope. From the opening story, which sees a family of Moroccan goat herders torn apart after buying their first gun, Iñárritu encompasses the Big Themes Of Our Age — globalisation, immigration, terrorism, prejudice, the best way to kill a chicken — but never lets his point-making dwarf his sense of people and place. Like a New Age neo-realist, he has a compassionate eye for human stupidity, never judging his characters as their foibles force the various crises to escalate. If Babel’s central thesis — the things that cause us pain are universal, not unique — is bleak, Iñárritu’s humanism tempers his pessimism.
 
In what might be a career best, Brad Pitt, borrowing the salt-and-pepper hair/stubble combo that George Clooney uses to denote seriousness, finds new notes of intensity and grief as a tourist holed up in a Moroccan village, struggling to keep it all together as his wife, the victim of a freak accident, fades away. Cate Blanchett, with little else to do but bleed and shiver, still manages to etch out a character of a woman uncomfortable with her lot. It’s to everyone’s credit that the two stars feel an integral part of the ensemble rather than mere stunt casting.
 
Elsewhere, Iñárritu fave Adriana Barraza radiates maternal warmth and innate decency assaying the au pair caught between her job nannying in San Diego and family obligations in Mexico, making her anguish all the more heartbreaking as she is lead astray by her out-of-control nephew Santiago (Gael García Bernal on fire-cracking form). Yet, the real stand-out here is Rinko Kikuchi, astonishing as Chieko, the Japanese deaf-mute teen trying to cope with the death of her mother, the cruelty of her peers and the hormones racing round her body like the Indy 500. By turns surly, sexually provocative (watch her, out of nowhere, lick her dentist’s face) and distraught, if there’s any justice in the world — and Babel persuasively argues that there isn’t — she would be a lock for a Best Supporting gong.
 
Working in cahoots with Brokeback lenser Rodrigo Prieto, Iñárritu beautifully evinces the sense of dusty village life, a Mexican wedding teeming with joy and warmth, and Tokyo’s pulsing teenage subculture — in a bravura moment following Chieko on a night out clubbing, the soundtrack cuts from the pounding sounds of Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough to absolute silence, perfectly conveying Chieko’s sense of dislocation, both sensory and emotional. Iñárritu is also a terrific director of children, guiding four naturalistic child performances — two Moroccan, two American — without a hint of cuteness.
 
Some may find the collage of coincidental dramas overwrought, but Iñárritu doesn’t deliver any pat answers. As much as it presents an eloquent argument for global understanding, there are no ‘We Are The World, We Are The Children’ platitudes offered up. Instead, Iñárritu lets the cultures collide and the different tongues babble, but offers no way through the mire, just a sensible awareness of the despair created by differences. A final moment of one hand squeezing another is touching, but does little to dilute the portrait of a world soaked in sadness.


Verdict
It may be too slow for some tastes, but Babel remains emotionally bruising but compulsive viewing.


Reviewed by Ian Freer


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Babel
Empire Star Rating

RE: Babel Review

It ain't 21 Grams, and not all of the storylines are wrapped up satisfactorily, but this is an excellent, emotional, and very well made drama. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mr Gittes at 01:00, 16 June 2013 | Report This Post


Babel Review

In Babel, there are no villains, only victims of fate and circumstance. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu weaves four of their woeful stories into this mature and multidimensional film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 12:54, 18 March 2012 | Report This Post


Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, don't care ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by willchadwick at 23:53, 01 November 2008 | Report This Post


... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by shawshank prisoner at 19:02, 12 July 2008 | Report This Post


not perfect, but still emotionally complex and effecting

though not without its faults ( the stories didnt seem to link together as effectively as in Iñárritu's previous films) i felt that this was a wonderfully gritty, emotionally draining film which deals with so many issues, cultural and moral, in a thoughtful and intelligent manner. the cinematography is stunning and the acting is great- who cares if it was a bit hyped up ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by elleisme at 18:55, 15 April 2008 | Report This Post


Just finished watching it after I picked up on DVD the other day and I really enjoyed it. It certainly wouldn't be for everyone but I could hardly tear my eyes away from the screen at any point. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by FortWilliamLoyal at 02:23, 11 September 2007 | Report This Post


Great Director, Brilliant Soundtrack and Compelling Viewing

... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by peckaneck at 15:25, 26 March 2007 | Report This Post


Tying the strands

I do agree with a lot of the comments on here with regard to tying the 3 strands together but I think we are left to our own devices in how we work things out. Personally I like it when a director leaves some room for discussion such as this rather than making everything too clear. SPOILER WARNING I also agree that the Japanese segment is the one which struggles to tie in but one could assume that the gun which was central to the other stories was the same gun with which the Japanese girls... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by cmb64 at 17:24, 19 February 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Brilliant!

having read through the above reviews and thoughts the words contrived, pretentious, and mess seem to recurr. which to me is a little confusing. i thought it was none of those things, for one thing, but i also find it rather ridiculous to call a film of this nature pretentious or contrived. pretentious would imply that it is pretending to be something it isn't - which i have no idea what that would be. someone mentioned that it is like 'crash' which is interesting considering crash is very much... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by sundance0611 at 19:24, 14 February 2007 | Report This Post


Brilliant!

A very entertaining film that has been beautifully written and directed. I like how everything comes together at the end, very clever! filled with tension and some sad moments, babel is a must see! However it loses a star for been a bit slow in some places and the music made me want to die! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Empo at 12:11, 07 February 2007 | Report This Post


Babel

Though this was good it was not great. Though the plot worked it was completely bizzare in Japan. SPOILER WARNING!! I understood the deaf mutes father gave his hunting friend the rifle in Morroco i did not understand why his sexually furstrated daugter was in it so much. Though the film was intresting it was not as good as Crash or Syriana. Its a film with potential but but the style of tthe fil has been done before and better. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by solid snake at 17:50, 05 February 2007 | Report This Post


This film was incredibly slow and very watchable, it does go at a pace that i thought could go faster but for me it was very interesting and brilliantly executed by Alejandro Inarritu. Even though i don't go and see movies like this it's one that i througly enjoyed especially Brad Pitt, even though i hate the guy, he somehow pulls off something he hasn't done in his previous movies. It's a very well done movie. I think it should win several oscars ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by umer_ejaz at 11:13, 05 February 2007 | Report This Post


i saw this film yesterday and i cannot believe it won best film at the globes and makes the final five in the oscars i think because its tackling a big theme and is very worthy it makes it. the film does not really come to any conclusion that brings all the strands together none of the characters ever meet. the jap section is a completely different film its connection to the rest is tenous as is the mexican section, setting the wh... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by quizkid at 12:15, 24 January 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Great Director ,shame about the film

I thought it was OK but far too long and not as profound as it would like to think it is, I'm still not convinced the whole Mexico plot was needed, and as other people have said in this thread the whole film seemed more than a little bit 'worthy'. Not a bad film, but I'm not convinced of it being deserving of a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars, but maybe it'll be this years Crash when it comes to Academy members voting for something they feel is 'socially aware'. ... More

Posted by Indio at 21:33, 23 January 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Great Director ,shame about the film

I enjoyed it but agree that there were some uneccassary points to it. It all kind of interlinked but was pointless in somecases. Enjoyable,engrossing and moving, but not exactly worthy of all the hype. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dready at 18:32, 23 January 2007 | Report This Post


Great Director ,shame about the film

I have recentlly seen Babel and expected so much from it, and was let down. The film was good, but was I the only one who thought that someone eles could have played Cate Blanchett's role, given the fact that she did nothing except bleed. I think that the Japanese girl was pointless, this film was good, but not that good. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by spotless mind at 15:52, 23 January 2007 | Report This Post


RE: So sad

I thought Babel was an excellent movie but heavily flawed. Innaratu's film boasts some quite brilliant performances from every cast member and it's cinematography was quite maginficiant which should certainly be an oscar cert. However Babel suffers from a muddled up interweaving plot which worked so well on his previous films. The message Gonzalez intended on his previous films was evident, but was a struggle in Babel. Despite that Babel worked as a narrative and was fullfilled come the end, ap... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by doncopey1 at 21:57, 22 January 2007 | Report This Post


So sad

I wanted to like it, but the film, as slow as it might seem, though fast too, offered nothing of compassion, i hated the americans, i hated the mexicans for their deceiving, i felt sorry for the morrocon family, and i felt smiilar to the Japanesse girl, but, the ending,way too pro-american, helped it become one awful movie. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ethanial at 19:58, 20 January 2007 | Report This Post


Babel

Whatever you might say about Alejandro González Iñárritu's i], there's no doubting the director's ambition. From its biblical title to its globe-encompassing narrative, i] is a film which strains for profundity as it tackles a number of weighty themes - prejudice, destiny and our inability to communicate with our fellow man. But in this third collaboration with screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, Iñárritu's reach spectacularly exceeds his grasp, and i] collapses in on itself as the contrived ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Philconcannon at 17:27, 20 January 2007 | Report This Post


For all its contrivances, Babel offers a gripping treatise on fate, chance and language with an epic sweep that leaves you marvelling at its ambition. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 17:22, 20 January 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Babel Slightly Lost In Translation?

I saw this last night and was really underwhelmed. Like the Empire review says, this is the 'interlocking stories used to make a big point about the human condition' but as has been noted, the stories don't really interlock.  The incident that is supposed to have kicked off this film has no bearing on the japanese segment and much of the film feels forced in that way. The US/Mexico story doesn't really seem to have been affected by the shooting either, since Pitt and Blanchett wouldn't hav... More

Posted by TheBunk at 16:07, 20 January 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Babel Slightly Lost In Translation?

not agree that /i]was necessarily an exercise in "pretentious filmmaking" but I agree that it lacked a "coherent message". Inárittu seemed too intent on bringing these strands together into some sort of meaningful whole and, as a result, his own attempts to communicate were somewhat negated.e=2] ely, it was an excellent exercise in filmmaking and narrative but it was no ance] ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Harry Lime at 23:52, 15 January 2007 | Report This Post


Babble

This film was well acted by all - some outstanding performances to the point where the line between acting and real personal engagement was very hazy. However, for me, this movie shot very wide of the mark. It had no point. After all was said and done, it comes across as being a very 'worthy' look at different events involving different people in different cultural surroundings linked together by a very tenuous thread. For example, the whole Japanese angle of this thread was a fish out of water/... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Major Gaper at 12:17, 15 January 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Babel

ing American couple (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett) are holidaying in Morocco when their coach is hit by a stray bullet fired from a rifle belonging to the teenage son (Boubker Ait El Caid) of a local farmer. Meanwhile an immigrant nanny (Adriana Barraza) makes a return to Mexico for her sons wedding with her two young charges illegally in tow. And in Japan, a disturbed deaf-mute adolescent girl (Rinko Kikuchi) trawls the streets and clubs of Tokyo awkwardly seeking a fervent sexual aw... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Harry Lime at 04:12, 07 January 2007 | Report This Post


... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by keeker at 13:23, 04 January 2007 | Report This Post


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