Babel (USA/Mexico; 142 min.)

directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu
starring: Brad Pitt; Adriana Barraza; Rinko Kikuchi
Michael says: "Alejandro González Iñárritu’s third feature to be released in the U.S. is a sprawling mess with a lot of intriguing ideas, but with way too much story for one film. It’s also a film with a message, and one that is telegraphed all the way from the title. Anyone who knows the story of the biblical “Tower of Babel” knows that BABEL is going to revolve around man’s inability to understand each other. Whether that’s due to language barriers, generation gaps, or self-involvement, BABEL shows us all the bad things that can happen if we don’t take the time to understand our fellow man. While it wasn’t the international version of CRASH that I feared it might be, I was still fairly disappointed with the end result.

"The film is broken up into three interlocking stories, one in Morocco and Tunisia, another in Mexico and the third in Japan. An American couple traveling in Tunisia find themselves in the middle of a political/cultural firestorm prompted by an accidental shooting. In San Diego, a Mexican domestic, taking care of the American couples’ two young children, makes an error in judgment, bringing the children with her to Mexico for her son’s wedding, that comes back to haunt her. Finally in Japan, a father and his deaf-mute daughter struggle to deal with their fractured relationship after the suicide of their wife/mother. Each storyline spirals down to its lowest depths, making audiences feel bad about their complacent, middle-class lives.

"Performances are good for the most part, with an international cast including Gael Garcia Bernal, Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, and Koji Yakusho, with even better performances by lesser known actors Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi. The Japanese segment of the film, with the most tenuous connection to the main story, is also the most intriguing. That storyline could have been separated out from the film and developed into a strong film all its own. Forced to share screen time with the other two storylines, it suffers from lengthy absences, and an unexplained resolution.

"Kikuchi is a revelation as the deaf-mute Chieko, expressing her adolescent rage and anguish with a voiceless passion. Bernal’s performance reinforced for me just how good he is in SILENCE OF SLEEP. Unfortunately, BABEL convinces me that Iñárritu is still a filmmaker in development. While AMORES PERROS burst across the starting line with energy, originality, and a strong visual sense, he took a serious stumble with the overly somber 21 GRAMS, and bit off more than he could chew with BABEL. 2 1/2 cats"