Release Date: October 27th, 2006 (Regal Union Square 14, AMC Loews Lincoln Square and AMC Empire 25)
November 10th, 2006 (Wide) by Paramount Vantage.
The Cast: Cate Blanchett, Brad Pitt, Adriana Barraza, Rinko Kikuchi, Gael García Bernal, Nathan Gamble, Elle Fanning, Kôji Yakusho.
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.
BASIC PREMISE: On vacation in Morocco, Richard (Pitt) searches for medical help for his injured wife, Susan (Blanchett), while, back in the U.S., their housekeeper (Barraza) and her nephew (Bernal) take Richard’s two children across the border for a wedding, but get into trouble with the law on their way back. In Japan, Chieko (Kikuchi), a deaf-mute teenager, struggles with the recent death of her mother, who may or may not have committed suicide.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: With its intricate, non-linear narrative, Babel has enough tension and suspense to keep you entertained. Two of the three plotlines have coherent conflicts: Susan gets shot in the neck while riding a tour bus in Morocco, so her husband desperately searches for medical help to save her life. Their tour bus driver gets inpatient and threatens to leave without them. Meanwhile, without notice, their housekeeper takes their two children from California to Mexico and, after a brief altercation with the border patrol, gets lost in the desert. The third plotline, involving Chieko’s crazy behavior after her mother’s death, feels contrived and has an unclear conflict. Chieko flashes teenage boys and disrobes in front of a police investigator. Her father, who avoids the investigator, might have had something to do with her mother’s death, which the police believe was a suicide. All of the performances of the ensemble cast are strong enough to be convincing. Brad Pitt gives the best performance of his career. What keeps you truly engaged, though, is the smart, well-written screenplay by Guillermo Arriaga who does an excellent job of including some details and twists which connect the three non-linear plotlines and also gives some closure to each one. Some scenes feel difficult to watch, such as when Susan yelps in pain while a doctor sows up her neck wound. None of the characters are particularly imaginative or memorable, though. Once again, Alejandro González Iñárritu proves to be a talented director who adds stylish cinematography, a terrific musical score, and gives just the right amount of attention to each plotline without any scenes that drag during the running time of 2 hours and 22 minutes.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: Babel raises the issues of inefficient medical attention in third-world countries, the danger of children playing around with guns, and the U.S.-Mexico border patrol’s use of excessive aggression toward potential illegal aliens. Watching how these issues affect the characters in Babel will make you glad not to be in their shoes, but, overall, feel depressed by their predicaments. .
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Mostly contrived during the plotline in Japan.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
IN A NUTSHELL: Smart, suspenseful and well-directed. Brad Pitt gives the best performance of his entire career.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
The "B" Menu