Babel (2006) Poster

(I) (2006)

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9/10
A Powerful Conclusion to Iñárritu's Trilogy
Doc-13411 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
"Babel" represents director Alejanrdo Gonzalez Iñárritu's conclusion to a trilogy that begins with "Amores Perros" and continues with "21 Grams". That being said, if you have seen either of those films and did not like them, it is probably fair to assume that you will not like "Babel" either. Thematically and stylistically, this film continues in the same direction, but increases in scope, illustrating that one incident can trigger a devastating series of events all around the globe.

Like "21 Grams", "Babel" is constructed as a puzzle, with different pieces transpiring during different times and in different places. Many viewers will no doubt see similarities to Paul Haggis' "Crash" which explores similar issues; however Iñárritu's piece places more emphasis on human emotion and requires the viewer to be much more participative in the interpretation of themes and ideas.

The film is set into motion when the young sons of a Moroccan goat herder get careless with a new rifle and accidentally shoot an American tourist (Cate Blanchett) traveling with her husband (Brad Pitt). This one act sets off a series of tragedies with global implications. American officials interpret this as an act of terrorism and of course the media reflects this accordingly. There is a story of the couple's undocumented nanny who juggles taking care of their kids while attending her own son's wedding in Mexico. In my favorite story, a deaf Japanese girl (Rinko Kikuchi) struggles with her mother's recent suicide and a father who is emotionally distant. This story doesn't reveal its connection to the others until late in the film, but it is undoubtedly the most poignant.

At its core, "Babel" is about the difficulty of human communication and even though stories unfold in four different countries and in five languages (English, Arabic, Spanish, Japanese, and Sign); language is far from the principal obstacle. This film is more concerned with cultural assumptions and biases that tend to obscure reality and how our perceived differences keep us from connecting to each other. There are many reasons to recommend "Babel", but most of all because of its astounding ability to cope with issues of global importance while also presenting characters whose individual struggles are no less compelling.
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9/10
Thoughtful, edgy, engaging and ambiguous
mstomaso25 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Babel is one of the most intelligent and artfully made films of 2006. The film has two central themes - culture and communication. It also exposes the connections between these themes in the arenas of politics, religion and geography sensitively and intelligently. The tag-line, though intentionally obtuse, sums the film up well - "If you want to be understood... Listen" - The parable is designed to speak to people all over the world who seem to believe that the meaning and importance of political boundaries somehow supersedes the value of humanity. It has especially important messages for Americans, however. And its release was well-timed to coincide with an election (2006) which may, in the long term, provide some hope for American foreign policy.

The film brilliantly weaves four deeply interconnected stories engaging five cultures on three continents. The cultures are North American, Mexican, Moroccan, Japanese and Japanese/deaf. At the heart of each tragedy is an inability to communicate. The tragedies begin with bad decisions that spin each plot somewhat out of control once cultural interference and miscommunication kick in.

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 (The two Middle Eastern boys who play the brothers in this film give Oscar-worthy performances, unfortunately I can't get their names out of IMDb easily). 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, and the poor Islamic family responsible for the gun begin to undergo a devastating crisis of their own. Of course the United States executive branch (not the government - sorry, we are still a democratically organized republic regardless of who sits in the oval office) interprets the crisis as an act of terrorism and a political crisis threatens to doom Susan to bleeding to death in a small remote town in the desert. Finally, in a seemingly disconnected story, Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi), a young, deaf, Japanese volleyball player is coming of age. Her mother has committed suicide and she seems bound to work out her problems with her father by devoting herself to a lascivious lifestyle.

The performances are, all around, excellent. The directing is exquisite - perfectly paced and visualized. This is a great film which, despite its commercial pedigree and big budget, achieves a rare level of artistry - proving that blockbusters do not have to be sold short. Babel will make you think, and think well. Make sure you bring your attention span and brain, however.

Very highly recommended.
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6/10
An Exhausting Film
evanston_dad19 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Alas, it appears that, based on other user comments here at IMDb, I am in the minority on this film. I found it to be tedious and exhausting, and the effort I put into sticking with it far outweighed any sense of closure I received from it.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu appeared at the screening I saw and introduced his film as the final entry in a trilogy that includes "Amores Perros" and "21 Grams." Inarritu, in a comment that surprised me, said that his intent with this trilogy was not to focus on politics or social commentary, but rather to look at the modern family and what it means to be a father, son, mother, daughter, etc. This may have been his intention, but I don't feel that over the course of three entire films Inarritu did say much about these issues. Instead, he has painted a portrait of the world as he apparently sees it as a pretty bleak, uncaring and unforgiving place to live. I thought "Amore Perros" was so pessimistic as to border on nihilism; "21 Grams" came closer to finding a sense of peace and redemption among the general human crappiness. "Babel" sticks closer to the sentiments of the first film than the latter.

"Babel" is of course about communication, or more exactly miscommunication, in the modern world. It's a theme that has engaged the interest of many a filmmaker lately -- the idea that technology has made instant communication so much easier, yet people seem to be more than ever incapable of understanding one another. It's a conceit that greatly interests me, but Inarritu doesn't exploit its potential here. "Babel" consists of a monotonous series of scenes in which people shout, storm, fight and talk over one another, always in a hurry to be understood without taking the time to understand. Very well, point taken. But Inarritu makes this point within the film's first half hour -- you only need see one or two scenes of this kind of frustrating verbal gridlock to understand what he's trying to say; after that, the frustration just mounts without any kind of pay off. People are mean to one another, some are unbelievably callous (I didn't buy for a second that the group of tourists who accompany Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett's characters to a remote Moroccan village after Blanchett is accidentally shot would be so uncaring as Inarritu depicts them). In Inarritu's world, all authority figures are to be justifiably feared, as they go around beating everybody up and pulling guns on innocent people. There's no nuance here; Inarritu pounds his message into you. For example, he obviously feels strongly about the mistreatment of illegal immigrants, especially those from Mexico, but instead of engaging in an intelligent debate about the topic, he sets up such an implausible, not to mention one-sided, scenario in this film that you can't help but agree with him.

The biggest disappointment in "Babel" is his failure to fully utilize a couple of wonderful actors he has assembled. Cate Blanchett is utterly wasted as the caustic American wife whose shooting sets off the chain of events. And Gael Garcia Bernal likewise gets nothing to do as a hot-headed Mexican whose attempts to run from border patrol creates a sad ending for one of the major characters. Brad Pitt does better than expected with the frenzied, frustrated husband of Blanchett. But these people have no history. We know virtually nothing about anybody in the film, yet are expected to care deeply about what happens to them. Maybe that's part of Inarritu's point -- that we're all connected to one another even if we don't know it, and that the world has become so small that there are no longer such things as strangers in it. But this is a film narrative, not real life, and you can't build a compelling one out of anonymous characters.

After "21 Grams" I thought I was warming up to Inarritu, but this film has sent me back to the detractors' camp. He certainly knows how to put a movie together, and he finds engaging ways to tell his stories. But his attitudes and approach to the modern world are so depressing and fatalistic that his films push me away rather than draw me in.

Grade: C+
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8/10
A coherent, impressive, well-made, insightful piece of work…
Nazi_Fighter_David25 August 2007
"Babel" centers on several groups of people in 4 countries that are all connected by one freak accident… Alejandro González Iñárritu takes us from North Africa to North America to Asia… His film exposes four unconnected story lines that are eventually divulged to be inextricably linked to one another…

The first involves an isolated family of goat herders who live in the High Plateaus of the Moroccan desert where two young boys are testing a rifle's range handed by their father to protect their goats from jackals...

The second concerns a Middle-class American couple on a bus tour of Morocco trying to save together their damaged marriage…

Meanwhile, in the US, there is grave danger for an undocumented immigrant—a Mexican nanny as she tries to return to United States after she wrongfully decides to take her two blonde-haired young charges to her son's wedding across the Mexican border, despite her employers' sudden change of plans, that needs that she remains with them and miss the joyful occasion…

And on the opposite side of the world, we follow, in Tokyo, an alienated, confused deaf and mute teenage student, recovering from her mother's suicide, who eases her feelings of depression and loneliness by trying to win the friendship or attention of every man or adolescent who crosses her path… She flirts with sexual exhibitionism to attract the attention of her distant and uncommunicative father…

"Babel" tries to make a point and the point is that when people can't or won't communicate, unpredictable paths can lead to tragic consequences… It also tries to leave a message of how a 'shooting' from a simple 'gift' can set off a chain reaction of tragic events in three continents and four countries over which the different characters have exceedingly uncomfortable human emotion…

Out of the entire cast, it is only Rinko Kikuchi as Chieko who steals the movie especially when she transmits to her friends her mad decision of sexual aggressiveness, saying to all: "Now they're going to meet the real hairy monster." This scene remembered me, in some way, Sharon Stone uncrossing legs in "Basic Instinct."
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9/10
Poetry
mysticwit12 October 2006
Alejandro González Iñárritu's direction is brilliantly layered and intricately woven. He deftly uses different film stock, imagery, sound, and stories to weave a single tale out of four disparate ones, a talent he's shown in other films.

The story by screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga and Iñárritu has one incident ricochet around the globe, and peeling back the layers of culture to show the frustrating inability to communicate, and the poignancy and universality of familial love.

Each story is complete, but a series of snapshots that leave as many questions as answers. As the stories unfold, the backstories and the futures of the characters are chock full of possibility and pain. As one commenter during the Q&A said, it was frustratingly beautiful. Each storyline deals with family and conflict from the inability to communicate or to understand.

All the performances are incredible, and very touching. Brad Pitt did an excellent job, and the always outstanding Cate Blanchett, a powerhouse actor if there ever was one, has the least screen time of any of the leads. Few can do so much with so little. But the really outstanding performance is Rinko Kikuchi as a deaf-mute Tokyo teen.

To say any more would possibly lesson the experience, so let me just say this: it may seem confusing at times, but by the end, it will seem like poetry.
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9/10
Excellent, bloody; well-communicated film
dfranzen7021 February 2007
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Babel weaves four disparate and seemingly unrelated tales into a distinct, gritty narrative about the importance of communication - and what can happen when it goes awry. The movie is oftentimes difficult to watch, with ultrarealistic cinematography and gutsy, honest performances from its entire cast, particularly Oscar-nominated actresses Adriana Barraza (Amelia) and Rinko Kikuchi (Chieko).

Told nonlinearly, the movie describes the travails of a troubled married couple with a tour group in Morocco, played by Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Something in their past has driven them apart, and to help deal with the problem they have taken a trip together. Meanwhile, the sons of a shepherd fight over who's the better shot with their new rifle and fire a blast at the couple's tour bus, critically wounding Susan (Blanchett).

Richard (Pitt) calls home in San Diego to notify the nanny of their children, Amelia; Amelia is in a bit of a bind, because she expected the parents home so she could attend the wedding of her son in Mexico. With Richard and Susan not returning soon, and with no one else available to watch the children, she takes them with her to the wedding.

In Japan, a deaf-mute Japanese girl acts out in reaction to her mother's suicide, which she discovered; the virginal Chieko becomes a huge sexual flirt, even removing her panties in a crowded restaurant to flash older boys. Chieko craves human contact but feels that the world's even more shut off to her now than ever before, and she sullenly shuns even her father's attentions.

It should go without saying that this film really isn't for everyone. It's gut-wrenchingly tough to watch at times, especially when Susan's wound is being treated. You can readily imagine how it'd be if you, an unworldly American, were suddenly in dire need of expert medical attention in a part of the world that wasn't really famed for it. That's enough to strike terror in me already, and I haven't even mentioned how Richard and Susan are awaiting help to arrive in a small, impoverished village with no running water or electricity - and only one person who can speak English to them.

How exactly these stories are commingled becomes evident as the movie progresses, but it's not all elegantly laid out for the viewer to immediately grasp; this is accomplished in part by the nonlinear storytelling. We see a scene near the end of the movie that is a mirror image of one from the beginning, except told from a different character's perspective. That's a tribute to the wonderful camera-work and editing by, respectively, Rodrigo Prieto and the team of Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrone.

Barraza turns in a powerful, heart-breaking performance; at one point, she's stranded in the middle of the Sonoran desert with her two young charges clad in her dress from the wedding. Dazed by the blistering heat, Amelia cannot gain her bearings in the blazing heat, and she despairs. Then she makes a critical decision with devastating consequences.

Kikuchi is absolutely mesmerizing as the silent Chieko. Without uttering one word, she's able to convey a vast array of emotions, from loneliness to hostility to love to lust to affection. She's alternately serene and violent, in charge of and captured by her impediment. Chieko resents her father, her volleyball teammates, and most of all every so-called normal person who looks at deaf-mutes as monsters, creatures to be scorned and taken advantage of. Like Barraza, Kikuchi's role called for a difficult sacrifice: plenty of nudity.

Babel is a spellbinding, multifaceted story with towering, passionate performances by all of the leads. It's full of moxie and stark realism, and despite some minor plot implausibilities, it's a true feather in the cap for Inarritu.
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9/10
A Bit Of Teaching, A Lot Of Preaching, Oodles of Talent
mjstellman2 March 2007
I loved "Amores Perros" It was revolutionary in so many ways and smelled like the real thing even if I couldn't quite put my finger as to what the real thing really was. "21 Grams" had gigantic intentions and superb performances but didn't feel quite revolutionary because we had kind of seen it before - and better - in "Amores Perros". Now "Babel" and, my goodness, the first thing that comes to mind is, what an extraordinary filmmaker Inarritu really is. I suspect that his universe, even if it feels infinite, it is framed - beautifully so - between the walls of biblical references. His methods may be way ahead of the times but the roots are as ancestral as fire itself. I'm not sure where I want to go with all this but the question is, Inarritu is taking me places and that's what I long for in a filmmaker. He's not taking any of us for granted and I'm very grateful for that. His movies are experiences and I for one can't wait for the next one.
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1/10
From a 50+ perspective: Thumbs Down
bmcdannell17 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Babel won tons of awards and tremendous critical acclaim. This tells us that coherent plotting and sensible storytelling are no longer requirements for cinematic accolades. Let's briefly outline some of the irredeemably absurd elements of the story: Morroccan authorities, without benefit of weapon, interviews or any other physical evidence whatsoever are able to track down the previous two owners of a rifle as well as the current owner - a desert goatherder - and locate his family. While they are doing this, with SUVs crawling all over the desert, neither they nor anyone else is able to get an ambulance, a helicopter or even so much as a golf cart to the person who has been wounded. A goatherder hands a high-powered rifle over to his two pre-teen sons with neither instruction nor apparent concern about their safety or anyone else's. Those sons - who are possessed of enough maturity and responsibility to tend the family's herds, give no thought to the possible consequences of using a moving tour bus for target practice. An illegal alien who has cared for two children since birth (a) waits until the day of her son's wedding to make plans to attend, and (b) decides to cross the border back into the U.S. with the two children she cherishes in the middle of both the night and the desert...with her drunken nephew at the wheel.

That's just for starters. The entire movie was rife with this sort of inanity, which made it impossible for us to lend credence to anything the movie had to say. And while what it had to say was ostensibly something about our inability to communicate both interpersonally and across cultures, I'm afraid that we are in agreement that all that actually came out of this mess was an intense xenophobia and the conclusion that we are all - without fail or exception - cosmically stupid.

We are used to suspending our disbelief for the sake of film, but we do expect that if we are asked to do this, the filmmaker provides the courtesy of a storyline and plot that will assist that effort. Babel, however, not only does not provide this, but gives us scenario after scenario that is so overwhelmingly implausible as to thwart one's best efforts to go along with it all.

In the end, the only segment of the movie that possessed any heart or believability was the Japanese story line - and by the end of the movie we still only had about one-fifth of what may have been an interesting story there. Too bad. If they had given us that complete story it couldn't have been anywhere near as awful as what we wound up sitting through.
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10/10
Excellent performances, superb direction, wonderful script!
locationmanager25 May 2006
Babel is my film of the year, and probably the best film I've seen in quite a few years. The film looks at relationships, from husband/wife, parent/children, brother/sister and plays around the themes of love in adversity. The characters are all interlinked in a very random way, it's a little like 10 degrees of separation. The film is set in Morocco, Mexico, Japan and the US, and the director makes full use of the different backdrops to bring the picture alive. The characters are deep and insightful, each has a problem to face up to and the subtle, naturalistic way their issues play out make for truly emotional cinema. This is not a film about heroes, it's a film about trying to make the right choices when your back is to the wall, and the doubts that go with this. Great movie, especially if you're a parent as your protective instincts will kick in at least once during this movie!
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10/10
That damned tower of ours
alanbittencourtx16 June 2007
I admire Gonzalez Inarritu's balls and his talent of course. He opens himself up for a barrage of criticism and ridicule but at the end his genius wins. I saw the film months ago and I still think about it. I haven't seen it again because the recollection is so powerful and I don't want to mess it up by seeing it again intentionally. The Mexican woman with the white kids in the desert has become part of my nightmares. What an enormous thing for a movie to accomplish. I'm giving it a 10 and not because I "like" the film so much but because I saw myself coming to the conclusion that the film is a masterpiece all on my own. It inspires respect. Christ! I can't believe I'm saying that but I am and I'm meaning every word. In a way it reminds me of Bunuel's "Viridiana" a film that I hated so much it has become one of the most important films of my life. Go figure. To be disturbed. I mean deeply disturbed is a strange experience and I suspect that it has to do with being confronted by the truth.
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1/10
This was the worst movie I think I ever...
fonzactim17 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
*** Oh so many spoilers *** Yeah. Hated it.

Okay. Maybe I have seen worse but after walking out of this, I couldn't think of one. I like the comment earlier that this movie was a non-linear mess. What exactly was this movie about? The best I can come up with is:

1.) Don't try to cross the US/Mexican border with your drunk a** nephew driving the car. 2.) Don't give young Moroccan kids a gun to play with cuz it could go really really bad. 3.) Don't commit suicide. It could really jack your deaf/mute daughters head up and she doesn't need anymore problems.

All of these happenings were very loosely related. Unlike, Traffic or Crash that also had multiple connected story lines, this one failed to be compelling, come together at any point or convey a strong message about anything. It was just pointless with so many very pointless scenes one after another and another.

Exactly at what point did we need to see a 12 year old boy masturbating behind a rock? I ask you, exactly what did that bring to the story or the character? It contributed nothing. It was just weird.

Exactly why was the Asian girl so desperate for love that she attempted to molest the dentist? What does that have to do with anything exactly? Am I really to believe that she was so distraught over her mothers suicide the prior year and her own deaf/muteness that it turned her to sexual desperation? She tried really really hard, folks.

Look, I'm no prude or anything, I like gratuitous sex the same as the next person but I'd like there to be some kind of reason that fits to the story...just because I'm odd that way. In this case there was no real story so I guess one could just throw in unreasonably weird scenes wherever they so choose, who cares, why not, when it's this bad it can get a whole lot worse...

What any of it had to do with the failure to communicate, I have no idea. It's completely wasted on me.

Don't even bother renting this one. Really, it's that bad.
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9/10
A Serious, Thought-Provoking, Uncompromised Film... from Hollywood?
yndprod-227 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
BABEL is better than I'd expected it could be. I've heard the beginnings of the backlash ("it's another CRASH") coming on the heels of the Cannes Film Festival triumph... and I kind of bought it. I respected AMORES PERROS and 21 GRAMS but neither really connected with me... So I was totally unprepared to be as impressed by this film as I was.

I wasn't a fan of CRASH -- I thought it was an overly-simplified take on a complex issue and that the characters were drawn in cartoony, larger-than-life strokes. BABEL, for me, is the complete opposite: as dense and complicated as the current state of world relations (between countries, between strangers, between family members and friends), filled with complex characters who are never reduced to stereotype. The performances are uniformly excellent, from the non-actors to the unknowns (here in America, anyway) to Brad Pitt, Gael Garcia Bernal and Cate Blanchett (all of whom give completely unflashy, ensemble performances). And the technical film-making is astounding -- not just the direction, but on every front (the editing and the amazing score deserve particular attention).

The most remarkable thing for me is the way director Inarritu and screenwriter Arriaga capture the different rhythms of life in Morocco, America, Tokyo and Mexico. Rather than using some kind of clear-cut stylistic device (like the color-coding in TRAFFIC), they establish the distinct flow and feel of each country early on and maintain it throughout the film. It's that kind of depth that makes BABEL such a unique mainstream film.

My best advice is to go into this film with as few preconceptions as possible and enjoy an experience that's become increasingly rare since the heyday of the 1970s: an intelligent Hollywood film with something important on its mind.
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8/10
Four stories. Three countries. One powerful film.
Flagrant-Baronessa3 November 2006
If you – like me, and so many others – found 'Crash' (2005) offensively finger-wagging and dumb (its inherent message was: "Racism is bad."), Alejandro González Iñárritu's Babel will make it up to you with refreshing intelligence, respect for cultures and crisp acting. The plot outline is difficult to do justice in one sentence but much like Crash it explores culture clashes in life by navigating multiple interweaving story lines.

One of these is the story of the married couple Richard and Susan Jones, played by Pitt and Blanchett, who travel to Morocco 'to get away'. Theirs is a remarkably complex and bruised marriage at first but once the plot gradually unfolds the root of their problems becomes apparent. What is most remarkable about their storyline is that Brad Pitt actually emotes as an actor (although is he is grossly facilitated by heartfelt circumstances) and that Cate Blanchett regrettably never gets the chance to shine in her performance.

Cut to two young Arabic boys in the barren craggy hills of the outback of Morocco. They are brothers whom have just been given a rifle by their father to protect their goats and now they are having fun in learning how to fire the weapon. There is refreshing gritty honesty in the portrayal of this storyline – from the dirt and heat on their clothes to the realistic dialogue – and many heartrending moments due to the aforementioned. But be warned, this is no glossy or romantic depiction of North Africa...

Another storyline takes place in colourful Tokyo in Japan, detailing the teenage life of a deaf girl called Chieko. Hers is arguably the most compelling story especially in terms of sheer fun to be had. Being a teenage girl is hard enough and Chieko finds that her disability distances her from other people – the boys she is interested in looks at her like she is a monster – and frustrated and desperate to be loved, she indulges in teenage clichés like partying and drinking in the modern mess that is Tokyo. Here I found the single most vivid disco sequence completely sucking me in and not letting go until the fast-paced euphoria of Chieko finally subsided. There is absolute gold to be found in this Tokyo story.

Finally, the last storyline takes place in Mexico and the main character is a woman called Amelia (Adriana Barraza), who also happens to be Richard and Susan's nanny. When her son is getting married in Mexico and she cannot get a day off, she takes the kids with her across the border. Big mistake. I'm sure many will be able to identify with the sprawling surge of Mexican culture at the wedding and indeed the music and pace made this storyline both beautiful and enjoyable to follow. It is evident that director Alejandro González Iñárritu feels most at home in this setting and as a result, the story shines and its characters emote.

Although there is a lot to keep track of in 'Babel' owing to its many story lines, there is such a fluent and seamless intercutting of these segments that it is impossible not to be entranced in the entirety of the film. There is a wealth of juxtapositions of culture to be found and much fun and visual stimulation to be had because of it. From the dramatic barren landscapes of Morocco to the fast-paced teen world of Tokyo, Babel treats contrast with remarkable sensitivity and skill of the subject matter. In other words, it gives a nonsentimental yet compassionate insight into the lives of different people whose stories orbit around the kaleidoscope that is 'Babel', sewn together by unsparing and uninhibited performances.

Better yet, you get so caught up in each story that when it cuts to make room for the next you feel almost a little offended – and that is good film-making. Babel, given its content, is everything Crash was not. Finally, it offers a satisfying and humble conclusion to an otherwise epic film. Although I cannot help but remark, Iñárritu, come on – you could have made a good movie in less than 2½ hours... *hmph*

8 out of 10
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1/10
Lured by the title and its cast, here's a loose ended movie about nothing.
phil-111912 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Want to be mislead into thinking you're about to see a great movie on the clash of cultures? Enter Babel.

Taken under the wings of Hollywood's altermondialists, who hope to score points in their quest to denounce the rising barriers between countries/cultures, Inarritu wastes 2h30 of your time to show you a series of loosely connected and predictable events triggered by idiotic characters who get what they deserve.

Why is this such a disappointment? After all, showing idiots get in trouble on the screen usually works! It doesn't work here because you'd think the clash of cultures and the language barriers is the cause of all the problems that occur in the movie when in fact, it's nothing like that. The characters get in trouble because of their complete lack of logic and the authorities actually act accordingly to minimize the damage.

I think Inarritu wants us to be more sympathetic to the cause of complete imbeciles vs. officials abusing their powers against "poor and innocent people" – none of which are not portrayed in this movie.

Case in point: a/ The clash between the drunk Mexican and the US customs agent would have been just the same had the drunk been a Texan red neck. I'm even surprised Inarritu shows us how "understanding" the US agents are by accepting to look for the kids the next day. You'd think, as a good left-wing, anti-establishment activist that they'd have arrested the maid, not trusted a single word she said and left the kids to die in the desert! b/ The clash between the American tourists and the locals in Morocco would have been just as bad between Moroccans. Proof of that is the local tour guide is no better -he's actually worse- at getting help than Brad Pitt – who delivers a pathetic and predictable performance. Next, the police find the culprits in less time than it takes to say "shoot", by moderately roughing up the locals - which is not shocking given the severity of the event and if you've seen what it's like in Morocco.

So what is he trying to say? That the police were effective? That the US government did a good job? Finally, the link between the Japanese family and the rest of the film.... well you just have to see it to believe it: I've never seen such loosely connected stories in the same film. Not only are they loosely connected, but they don't even come together at the end of the movie - something Inarritu had managed quite well in Amores Peros.

Maybe if he'd gone through the trouble of telling us the parallel story of the Russian or Israeli factory worker who built the bullet used to shoot the tourist, we'd have had another 30mn or 45mn of lame and useless storytelling.

I was caught once with Y tu Mama Tambien, thinking Gael García Bernal who'd done such a good job in Amores Peros would bring us another good story - which ended up being about jerking off at the pool and swearing for absolutely no reason for 1h30 – something my Mexican and Colombian friends were ashamed off (and they were not raised with a silver spoon in their mouth). I was caught yet again with Babel, mislead by the title, by the producer, by its cast and by the fact that it had been a favorite in Cannes, Toronto and other film festivals.

Such movies are usually favorites because they want to denounce the establishment and we all know the social penchant of artists and movie critics – that's fine. Except this movie fails on all aspects it tackles!!! Independent movie-goers: Don't drew because a movie is simply off the beaten path; don't fall in love or get all sympathetic because you see a bunch of peasants get beaten up by police, just because you don't like Bush – it happens everyday and it's been like this since the dawn of men.

There are limits to abusing one's good faith and this director does just that for 2h30. He takes you on an empty ride, with an empty story, empty characters and worst of all a fully predictable plot from the moment you realize you've been conned into seeing a movie not worth the film it's printed on.
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10/10
The Virtue Of Misunderstanding
marcosaguado11 February 2007
There is nothing coincidental about the human connection but if you're interested in finding a reason for it, for them - you would have to dig into your spirit. It was meant to be and it was meant to be in the way that it unfolds, no matter how absurd, how contradictory, how seemingly coincidental. I don't know anything about Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, other than he is one of the most extraordinary filmmakers to emerge in the 00's, but I suspect he has the soul of a Christian prophet, the mysticism behind the realism of his stories reek of God and of New Testament. Amores Perros, 21 Grams (the weight of the soul, remember?) now Babel the famous, or infamous biblical tower. Gonzalesz Inarritu has put together an immediate universe populated by incomprehension and humanity shaken and wrapped in a bloody cloth of the purest linen. His images will remain with me forever in particular Adriana Barraza's moment with the American kids in the desert. A total triumph.
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1/10
Awful garbage disguised as Art.
csarda123 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The little respect I had left for Hollywood is gone.

This is the most absurd, empty, exploitative, stupid, manipulative and ridiculously overrated piece of crap I've ever had the disgrace to watch.

An homage to poor storytelling. Boring, irrelevant stories loosely connected.

There is not the slightest resemblance with the reality Inarritu is trying to resemble.

Just a series of absurd, unfortunate, unexplained, boring and UNRELATED events caused either by stupidity, sheer negligence or absolute absence of common sense

Are we supposed to feel compassion for extreme idiocy or moronic irresponsibility ???

Let's Start with the Plot holes:

WARNING!! SPOILERS!!

There is no Ambulances, Doctors, nurses, even a Band Aid or Alcohol in Morocco.

A TOURIST BUS touring in the middle of nowhere and they didn't carry an stupid first Aid kit or Emergency supply!!!

(You can find BASIC medical help even in the Arctic)

But...

...they have the best, fastest and more efficient POLICE on the Planet!!!!

They got to the Crime scene in SEVERAL fast 4X4 SUVs, found an UNREGISTERED weapon's owner (It was a gift from a Japanese Hunter( In Morocco??) to an ignorant, dirty and primitive Shepperd) in a remote, poor rural and unpopulated zone, with almost no evidence and...

...in in matter of few hours they found the "terrorists".

But

They couldn't contact, talk or actually see the VICTIM,

Not to mention they couldn't send a stupid Ambulance or a nurse to assist the main protagonist of the "HYPER RELEVANT TERRORIST THREAT" :

THE VICTIM!!

And

How did the Moroccan Government now a Crime was committed if they even didn't see the VICTIM????

And the Moronic Husband, for some absurd reasons, choose to place his mortally wounded wife in some dirty pigsty with strange people, smoking some kind of Arabic Dope (oohh!! That strange people) in some lost town in the Desert rather than resume the trip on the Bus and seek Help.

Why this idiot is holding the Bus while he waits for help is a mystery.

What's the point of this absurd tale?? What's happening between that couple?? How did they end??

What relevance had this stupid story???

Oohh!!

The Illegal (YES, is, ILLEGAL ) Mexican Nanny, who deeeeeeeeeply loves the American children she cares since they were born, but didn't hesitate to take them out to Mexisco for his son's wedding without permission of their parents and, later, coming back to the U.S. in a car with the drunken cousin driver and the two children, crossing the U.S. Border point of surveillance in the middle of the night!!

Only a retard or a seriously mentally sick person would do that. This is plain unbelievable.

For some stupid reason, She couldn't wait till the next morning, or at least for the cousin to sober up or ask one of the 100 relatives she was with to spend the night there or to drive Her back.

She chose to risk her life (and the children's lives) instead.

To worsen the things the drunken retard Cousin, at the first sign of trouble, ran away from the Border Patrol and had the BRIGHT idea of ABANDONING HER AUNT AND THE TWO CHILDREN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DESERT WITH A FLASHLIGHT!!

OOHH!

A father giving to children (not even teens!) a high power rifle and leaving them on their own.

Please...

Imagine saying this to your 9 year old "Hey Son, take my loaded Magnum and go out to play"

Not only are the stupidest decisions I've ever seen (even in a fictional movie) but CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT and punishable by law.

Am I supposed to feel sorry for such an incredibly idiotic act of sheer stupidity and negligence??

The deaf Japanese Girl behaves more like a nymphomaniac retard rather than a vulnerable, emotionally troubled girl.

What's wrong with this girl?

Are Deaf Japanese Girls also retards or so desperately love hungry they would get laid with ANYONE,??

What's wrong with his father?

What's the trouble, the profound story behind?

And the frontal nude scene of a starved Japanese teenager is totally unnecessary. Inarritu could have said the same (that is NOTHING) without this pathetic scene. Also the 9 year old moroccan child masturbating and the Hen killing.

Inarritu must be laughing in secret with Arriaga at the artsy fartsy snobs who liked this farce and nominated him for awards.
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9/10
It might as well have been a silent movie
Sherazade29 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
most of it was anyway. You didn't need subtitles or speaking roles to get the true impact the director Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams, Amores Perros) intended. Babel was definitely 2006's CRASH, only more subtle. The message within the movie is that pain is universal but we did not need a movie to tell us that or do we?

Babel begins it's tale with a poor family living in rural Morroco. A friend of the father in the household brings a rifle to sell to the family. The father purchases the weapon with some ammunition and (perhaps ill-decidedly) hands it over to his two teenage sons to go and shoot jackals. Children being children and boys being boys, the two end up aiming and shooting a passing vehicles on a nearby road, one of which is tour bus carrying a grieving couple Richard and Susan played Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett (it is later revealed that they are grieving the death of their infant son). One of the bullets ends up hitting Susan (Blanchett) the one person who hated being in Morroco in the first place. Richard (Pitt) frantically tries to save her life in an adventurous bid to get help in a forgotten land that takes him to depths of despair and ultimately tests the limits of his love for his wife as well as their union.

Meanwhile, miles away in Tokyo, a young and deaf woman named Chieko (played by Rinko Kikuchi) is going through the motions with her life as a teenager who refuses to be handicapped by her handicap. If you're wondering what this young woman's life has to do with the storyline, don't worry because the link will be revealed later. Nevertheless, this storyline will prove to be the most faulty and mysterious of all the story lines present in the film. Trust me, I still have questions.

Back home in America, Amelia (played by Adriana Barraza) the maid caring for Richard and Susan's children has a dilemma of her own. Her son is getting married in Mexico but because of the unforeseen circumstances keeping Susan and Richard in Morocco, she is forced to make a decision that will cost her big time in the long run. IMHO the performance of this woman was perhaps the single most noteworthy performance in the entire film. Don't get me wrong Pitt and Blanchett were great, as was Kikuchi, but Barraza's performance stood out like a secret in plain view. If Babel does nothing at all, it will make you think and it certainly has got people talking. Its only flaw was perhaps the forced tying of all the stories and people together in the end, which made it seem a bit far-fetched but that's okay, no one and nothing is perfect. See it for the great performances and cinematographic artistry. Ignore the sketchy story lines. A-
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6/10
Babel-on, Wayward Director...
WriterDave6 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
With "Babel" Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has crafted the apex to his trilogy that began with the gangbusters "Amores Perros," and continued with the finely crafted and haunting "21 Grams." Unfortunately, it seems that peak is crumbling. "Babel" has the same intertwining story structure as the previous two, but in hopping across continents and making the stories global (taking place in Mexico, Morrocco, and Japan), he loses some much needed focus. It also has what has now become his signature editing-with-a-hacksaw-style of chronology that worked beautifully in "21 Grams" but seems forced here. In fact there's one set of scenes taking place at a Mexican wedding that is needlessly incoherent in its jumping back and forth. Everything in this set of scenes is taking place at one location on one night, so why the jumbled chronology? It makes one wonder if they forgot an editor all together.

"Babel" is not without its merits. The story lines are more often than not thought-provoking and challenging. The ensemble acting is top notch from the big stars (Cate Blanchett is riveting as always in all her subtle and alluring ways and makes the most of her limited screen time) down to the no-name locals (the Morrocan kids being especially effective). There's also a commendable ambition to the whole endeavor as it attempts to explore communication and human emotion in the increasingly global and paradoxically intolerant world. Memorable, too, is some great cinematography of the Tokoyo skyline (especially that awesome closing pan-out from the high-rise balcony) and the Morrocan highlands, where the centerpiece of the intertwined tragedies takes place when an American tourist is accidentally shot by some goat-herding kids playing with a gun used to keep away jackals from their family's livelihood.

Unfortunately "Babel," in its uncompromising vision, plays out painfully in strained, awkward lurches that stretch believability. It's interesting how during various moments, different story lines seem the most compelling. The early scenes in Morocco of both the American couple (Blanchett and Brad Pitt) and the local goat-herders are stark and intimate and represent the best at what Inarritu is capable of as a storyteller. Later, he applies a humanistic touch to the scenes of the Mexican nanny taking her American charges across the border for her son's wedding. There's a wide-eyed innocent nature to the culture clash he depicts that gets garbled later when Gael Garcia Bernal (as the nanny's nephew) dives off the deep end with little reason and leads to a tragic series of events that really test the viewer's ability to take this all as seriously as the filmmaker's would like us to. Likewise, the Japanese tale of the deaf-mute teenage girl struggling to cope with society's unwillingness to communicate on her level, a distant father, and the recent suicide of her mother lurches forward so melodramatically it becomes banal, and the connection it has to the other stories is the biggest stretch to swallow, and most viewers will choke on it.

Then, of course, there is the presence of the aforementioned uber-star Brad Pitt. He's at a point in his career where his celebrity status trumps his acting talent. He's actually quite good as Blanchett's frantic husband, but his star-power is distracting and constantly has the viewer thinking in the back of their mind "wow, Brad Pitt can act" rather than feeling anything for the character. This is a piece of stunt-casting that doesn't work.

There are many compelling moments and noteworthy performances in "Babel," but it crumbles under its own weight as just about everything is reduced to the big breakdown/crying scene, and we are left wondering what Inarritu will do next as a director. He's got talent to spare, but ran out of steam when taking his intimate look at human tragedy global with "Babel."
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9/10
Helsinki International Film Festival: Babel
cinna66515 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
A new director's cut of Alejandro Gonzales Iñarritu's Babel was shown last night in the opening of Helsinki International Film Festival. This cut was said to be slightly different from the award-winning version last spring in Cannes.

Babel is a story of three stories about communication difficulties, and how a person can be alone also in a huge city as well as inside a family, because people have not found means to communicate properly with each other. In the first chapter an American couple is visiting in Morocco when the wife (Cate Blanchett) gets shot in the middle of the desert and her husband (Brad Pitt) is desperately trying to get help in time. Second chapter is about a Mexican lady who is taking care of two kids in California, and ends up taking the kids along with her to Mexico in order to be able to attend her son's wedding. Third chapter is about a Japanese deaf-mute girl who feels extremely alone after her mother's death and because of her problem. And as in Iñarritu's previous films, also Babel ties all these stories together in the end.

Babel is full of powerful emotions and drama. Pitt as the desperate husband in the Moroccoan desert does incredibly touching job when trying to help his wife. This must be one of Pitt's best roles ever. In Morocco Iñarritu is using mainly local amateur actors as the villagers and other people, and they bring beautiful authenticity to the film among the beautifully simple desert scenery.

Huge, crowded and noisy Tokyo is a total opposite to the Moroccoan desert. Being alone in a city like that feels unrealistic, but Rinko Kikuchi as deaf-mute Chieko makes that possible. Her role is extremely powerful as a girl who has just lost her mother, is not very close to her father and is unable to make physical connection to other people.

Babel is a beautifully made movie, even though it bit of lacks the soul of the two previous films of Iñarritu -trilogy. Sometimes it feels as is the original idea of communication difficulties is somehow hidden under other kind of drama, and I kind of missed some of the details of the original idea. After Amores Perros and 21 Grams my expectations were probably a bit too high for Babel.

Babel is one of those dramas that make you feel strong emotions and make you think. I recommend Babel to all people who enjoy films that speak to you and make you feel. But this is not a mainstream movie to everyone's liking.
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4/10
Well made but it doesn't add up to much
dbborroughs10 February 2007
This is a film that is in part about how we fail to communicate and how we fail to understand not only with people in other cultures but also with people just around the block. This is the story of one family and how miscommunication and a lack of understanding spirals out into tragedy. Told in a disjointed manner that alters the time frame we have four stories: A family in Morocco who get a gun to protect the sheep they herd, A couple on vacation in the same country which has its vacation shattered by a shooting, the children of the couple who take a trip with their housekeeper to Mexico, and a seemingly unconnected story of a Japanese father and daughter. Thats what happens in simplistic terms. What happens on the screen is an often rending tale of how life connects us all in weird ways that we can't always explain. Its a beautiful movie to look at and is magnificently acted.

Unfortunately this viewer was bored silly by it. Pretentious to the point of silliness this is a movie that is going to spell out its premise over and over again. Yes, we can't communicate (and if it isn't clear one of the characters is deaf), yes we are all connected, yes this will lead to tragedy. Thank you for pointing it out for us, but did you have to do it for almost two and a half hours? Don't get me wrong there is a good story in this movie, but the way the director has chosen to tell it, out of order with the grafting on of the Japanese portion of the film, it all becomes lost. Its an attempt to add some emotional and intellectual weight to a story that doesn't need it. I walked out of the the film admiring it and what it was trying to do, but not liking it much at all.

Wait for video or cable
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9/10
review from Rio
aoutralila-12 October 2006
Just saw the movie at the Rio Film Festival. Crash-like or not, the film is not the first to tell a story of intertwined events, nor will it be the last. Discussions about screenplay similarity are irrelevant. What should be considered is the story being told by the very competent director, Alejandro González Iñárritu. It is a tale of different lives and the choices people make. Choices made in extreme situations and how their repercussions are interpreted and dealt with around the globe. It is also about how misconceptions and stereotypifications are unfair and misleading. The movie will not please some, but at least it brings light to a debate on human relations and cultural identities that is much needed in the world today.
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8/10
Spellbinding, but marred by story problems
DonFishies23 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
While I am not exactly sure why I did not bother seeing Babel when it first came to theatres, I do know that I kicked myself after it started picking up awards and nominations with some of the bigger critical societies. It looked good, but it also looked off. After the Oscar nominations were announced, I knew I had to make a point of finally seeing the film before the big night. And despite my excitement over finally seeing the movie, I am still a bit mixed in my feelings about it.

Spanning four stories in four very different countries, Babel is connected by a single gun shot. In Morocco, Yusef (Boubker Ait El Caid) and Ahmed (Said Tarchani) have just been given a new rifle to help kill jackals praying on their families goats. In trying to understand the weapons firing capabilities, they innocently shoot at a tour bus. On that bus, American tourist Susan (Cate Blanchett) is hit by the bullet and injured. Her husband Richard (Brad Pitt) attempts to get help for her, while in America, their nanny Amelia (Adriana Barraza) is watching their kids, but wants to go to her son's wedding in Mexico. Finally, in Japan, schoolgirl Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi) wants attention from men, but unfortunately is a deaf mute.

In a word, Babel is spellbinding. It is hard to take your eyes off of the screen at any moment during the film, and as it continues to go on, it only draws you in more and more. The global spanning story with the various languages is just a marvel to witness in action. But despite it being gorgeously photographed and brought to the screen, the film has a few issues that hold it back from being a true masterpiece.

For one, the Japanese story just feels totally out of place. Whereas the other three stories are deeply interwoven within each other, allowing every scene to just flow into the next (in a totally non-linear sense), this story just kind of sits on the sidelines. Yes, it is connected to the greater story of the gun shot, but only by the loosest of threads. It is an interesting part of the complete story, but really, was there a better way to fill in the gaps between the other three stories? It has the most elaborate backgrounds in the film, the most music and undoubtedly the best performance, but it just feels awkward in the grand scheme of things.

Another smaller issue is the time line. At times, it is a bit hard to follow how many days have progressed since the incident, and by the time you finally are told just how long it has been, it becomes a little ridiculous trying to think it all out. The non-linear story does not help much either.

The story itself feels a little convoluted in sections. For the most part, I thought it was very well done, and very well brought to life on screen. But in a few instances, I sat in a bit of a daze, wondering whether they needed some of the extra sequences that they had. An early sequence in the Moroccan kid's story involves heavy sexual overtones. But later, they really do not rate anything more than a mention. A lot of the subplots like this just feel kind of tacked on, and never are really concluded as well as they should have been. Yes, I know that they have no real importance, but then why are they included here in the first place? They easily could have trimmed down the movie by a good handful of minutes by trimming some, if not all, of these subplots out. The movie's ultimate message and key story would still be in place, so I really do not understand why this could not have been done.

The majority of the performances are all excellent. I was very impressed with El Caid and Tarchani as the Moroccan boys who set everything in motion. Their innocence and genuine fear are miraculously captured, and are so better done than the majority of child actors working today. Barraza also does very well for herself as the guilt-ridden nanny. As her story goes on, the desperation that plagues her is slowly let on, and the character slowly slips into just the right amount of panic. Just seeing how low this character gets is well worth her Oscar nomination. On the other hand, Pitt and Blanchett have both been much stronger in other films. Yes, they do more than an adequate job here (especially Pitt in his waning moments on screen), but I would be lying if I said that they have other entries in their bodies of work that far surpass this. Same goes for Gael Garcia Bernal, who like the subplots, just feels tacked on and not really developed as much of anything.

Kukuchi is the real star power of this film. Her tragic performance of the deaf Japanese schoolgirl is simply astonishing. She really digs deep into this character, and the audience really gets a grand sense of the pain that these people go through every day. Just watching as she is socially rejected by everyone is just heart wrenching and so intense to watch. These scenes, needed or not, are gritty and bring a whole new sense to the film. I just wish that the filmmakers could have put her character in a much more useful position in the film.

On the whole, Babel is flawed, but is a genuine experience to watch. Globalization has never been as key to a film as it is here. Despite its issues and lengthiness, you will be hard-set on taking your eyes off of the action taking place on screen. It is not perfect, but for what it sets out to do, it does more than an admirable job.

8.5/10.
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8/10
interesting, complex tale
pb104-15 September 2006
The film opens in the Moroccan desert: an elderly tribesman trades a high-powered rifle to a goat herder for 500 diram & a goat. He hands the rifle to his two young sons and tells them to kill jackals with it, to protect the herd. As practice, the start shooting at rocks, a car passing on the hill below, and finally a bus. That's the only thing they manage to hit, putting a bullet through the shoulder of a tourist. In the middle of nowhere, there's no medical help, and no one wants to wait with the injured person except her husband. That's the setup of this complex, challenging film. It splits into four related stories, one in Japan, two in Morocco, and the last in California, where a housekeeper has to get to her son's wedding in Mexico, but has no one to watch the two children in her care. She decides to take them along, and of course things go sour. A good cast, great acting, fine cinematography, and expert direction make this film well worth watching. It's not for everyone, but for people who are ready to see deliberately paced low-key thriller, this is one good film. The split story line is reminiscent of "Syriana," but in no way copies it.
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1/10
Babel Schmabble
jk-9629 March 2007
No redeeming value whatsoever. If I had been in a theater I would have walked out, but since I was comfy on my couch at home, I hung in there till the end. There is nothing here to hold on to, nothing to take away. Flawed characters can be illuminating, but these characters make mistakes that are simply stupid and annoying. No insights to be had. No revelations to be found. No laughs, no "aha!" moments anywhere. Some works of art illustrate the futility of life, man's inhumanity to man, and offer insight into our own struggles --but unfortunately not Babel. A shallow movie, when it knows it is shallow, can be amusing at times. But the worst thing is, Babel thinks it is saying something. It is trying to con us into believing that something profound is being said: something about our inability to communicate, something about cultures, something about families. But it is saying exactly nothing! Vapid stories woven together, however artfully, are still vapid stories. Save your $$$.
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1/10
Couldn't believe the stupidity!!!!
heedser14 March 2007
I was prepared to like this movie from what I had heard about it and its representation at the Oscars. What a shock that every character in it was so unintelligent that I found it difficult not to feel like they brought everything that happened to them onto their own heads! Giving kids guns and leaving them to use their own judgment?? Shooting at a moving vehicles for target practice????? Taking young children in a car with a drunk driver in the wee hours across a national boarder???? Keeping a bus full of sweltering tourists far from their destination while you wait for rescue??These people are idiots! If you refuse to use your brain.. bad things will surely happen!
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