To tell the details of ‘Babel’ is a real spoiler, but I will try my best to avoid that. Outside of it’s Biblical connection, is also a severe example of “what comes around, goes around”. Brad Pitt and Kate Blanchett play a troubled American couple having very little fun on a vacation in the Middle East. Susan (Blanchett) is shot by a young boy practicing with a gun. Three crises are simultaneously set off, as the Americans’ nanny must find a way to attend her son’s wedding in Mexico while Susan’s medical crisis unfolds. At the heart of each tragedy is an inability to communicate. The cultures are North American, Mexican, Islamic, Japanese and Japanese/deaf.
Now the sidestory with the Japanese father/daughter, very loosly tied in, to me added filler, but dramatically done. It is catching, and most should find this film moving. Cheiko to me was like the last piece from a different puzzle you slam into place because it’s a bit misshapen. People may think Cheiko’s story was the most interesting or whatever, which is fine, on it’s own I won’t dispute that to some it might be a great story. But try and fit it into place with the flow of the main storyline and she’s attached very loosely. The cinematography is dazzling. I liked how long shots and close-ups were used. I loved the soundtrack as it comprised of different tracks from different cultures. What I think captivated me most was that Babel wasn’t watered down. From the Middle East, to Japan, and then to Mexico the stories seemed almost to real.
The movie is weighty with sadness, fear and anxiety, but that’s a part of our life here on earth. I appreciated the way each of the four stories gradually connected with each other, surprising us with the outcomes and also the timelines. It’s not linear, so not everything in every story is being told in chronological order. In fact, the story seems to move in more of a circular pattern, with the end seeming to take us back to the beginning. In some ways that created confusion, although it also probably served to keep the viewer guessing. The main take-away is that this is a relatively long movie that keeps you in your seat without the desire for a break. There’s suspense, desperation, thrills, high emotion and different situations for every age group and culture to relate to in Babel.
That’s the wonder of the film. It involves the viewer with the struggles in the lives of everyone. The film gives you a close-up on the human condition and you are left considering people and places with a familiarity gleaned from the experience of watching. This film does show a global class system where Americans are treated with more respect than those from third world countries. The goat-herders are brutalized by their own police, and the Mexicans are viewed with suspicion and contempt by the U.S. border patrol. The film wants us to sympathize with the underdogs. Which means, if you want a film to relax in front of on a lazy Sunday afternoon, then Babel probably isn’t it.