Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal, Koji Yakusho, Elle Fanning
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
SUNY Purchase '05
"I don't compromise my values and I don't compromise my work. I won't give in." -Michael Moore
Review By: Rocco Passafuime
Since the dawn of movie-making, film, more so than any other medium, has proven a great stepping stone in the cultural diffusion of ideas. Its shown viewers of all races, ethnicities and nationalities just how connected we as human beings really are.
Filmmaker Alejandro GonzÃƒÂ¡lez IÃƒÂ±ÃƒÂ¡rritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga set out to take such a philosophy into incredibly literal proportions. Their result is the film Babel, which is now available on DVD.
The film is a multi-layered story that spans an international scale. There are many stories within the film that are slowly revealed to interconnect with each other. It begins in the countryside in Morocco as a goat herder buys a rifle from a nearby villager for his sons to use to fend off jackals.
However, the sons begin to fool around with the gun and shoot a tour bus, inadvertently wounding a female American traveler named Susan (Cate Blanchett). Her husband Richard (Brad Pitt) fights to get Susan help as she is rapidly losing blood from her wound as the coverage of the story turns into a political fiasco, causing intense and numerous delays for the couple's rescue.
Meanwhile, while Richard is busy trying to get help for the increasingly hemorrhaging Susan, their housekeeper and nanny Amelia (Adriana Barraza), back home in San Diego, is torn between watching the couple's children and going to her native Mexico to attend her son's wedding. Having trouble finding a suitable caretaker, Amelia decides to take the children with her and her nephew Santiago(Gael Garcia Bernal) across the border.
However, the trip runs into to trouble on the way back when Santiago and Amelia are stopped and questioned by border patrol agents. After much deliberation, a drunken Santiago soon begins to fight and flee from the agents and ends up leaving Amelia and the children behind in the outskirts for their own safety.
Meanwhile, its soon learned that the rifle used to shoot Susan originally was a gift from a Japanese businessman and avid hunter named Yasujiro (Koji Yakusho). His daughter Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi) is a deaf-mute traumatized from her mother's recent suicide. The alienated Chieko soon begins to act out her frustrations through various and shocking forms of sexual exhibition.
Babel is unquestionably one of the most unique films to have surfaced in the past year and succeeds tremendously with its very ambitious concept. Guillermo Arraiga manages to defy the odds and successfully interweave three vastly different situations and have them manage to credibly interconnect with each other.
This is buoyed by Alejandro GonzÃƒÂ¡lez IÃƒÂ±ÃƒÂ¡rritu's directing skills. IÃƒÂ±ÃƒÂ¡rritu has a flashy and often very intense directing style that manages to be hauntingly atmospheric and slow-paced, while being consistently compelling enough to sustain its 140 minute running time.
The cast is also first-rate and manage to turn in powerful performances. One of high noteworthiness is Adrianna Barraza who
Rinko Kikuchi's performance as a deaf-mute is undoubtedly one of the most unique of its kind. She manages to deliver strongly as an actress and compel the viewer without ever having to say a single word. Her character alone embodies the sheer power of the film's culturally transcendent message.
The DVDÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬™s picture quality is in the 1:78:1 widescreen aspect ratio, with the sound quality in Dolby Digital Surround 5.1. However, viewers will be disappointed to find that other than the film's theatrical trailer, there are no special features included.
All in all, Babel is an incredibly powerful experience that more than any other foreign-language film shows how humanity is connected. Guillermo Arriaga's rich characters and ambitiously multi-tiered plot manages to flow and interconnect smoothly, while Alejandro GonzÃƒÂ¡lez IÃƒÂ±ÃƒÂ¡rritu's intense and stylish direction keeps the film constantly well-paced and exciting. If there's any film that stood out in 2006, Babel is undoubtedly the year's most idiosyncratic.
Movie Grade: A-
Special Features Grade: C
Overall Grade: B+