Babel (2006)

brooke I think this movie was 80% boring and 20% really good

casey It feels like it wants to be About Something, and director Alejandro Iñárritu is not known for subtlety, so a lot of the time it reads like a billboard shouting “BEHOLD, THE HUMAN CONDITION.” Sometimes it works; other times not so much.

brooke Yeah… Iñárritu expects the audience to “get it”, and it’s obvious that he thinks there’s going to be some amazing Q&A after every screening, but the movie is all over the place. The narrative is non-linear and the characters’ goals are not very clear.

casey The movie tells several loosely intertwined stories, beginning with two boys in a remote part of Morocco, Yussef  and Ahmed, who decide, in the grand tradition of young boys egging each other on in making stupid decisions, to take a few long range potshots at a passing tourist bus with their father’s new rifle. One of the bullets hits American tourist Susan Jones (Cate Blanchett), who is visiting the country with her husband Richard (Brad Pitt) for a vacation he hoped would save their struggling marriage. With Susan badly hurtthe couple is forced to seek aid in a nearby village for several days while waiting for an evacuation. Meanwhile, brutal Moroccan police began searching for the “terrorists” who attacked them. Back in their Los Angeles home, their nanny Amelia (Adriana Barraza) finds herself responsible for the Jones children for longer than expected, which forces her to take them across the Mexican border to her son’s wedding in Mexico (naturally, it doesn’t go smoothly). The movie also follows the seemingly unrelated  of Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi), a deaf Japanese girl struggling to deal with her mother’s suicide with the main coping method being acting out sexually.

brooke Ah yes, the hyper sexualized Asian teenager (#problematic). I found Chieko’s story the hardest to understand and probably the most tragic. Her inappropriate outbursts and attempts to sabotage her relationship with her father (Kōji Yakusho), who’s trying to be a good dad, are hard to watch. I found myself yelling internally at her and many of the characters and hoping they’d just stop being stupid. It made a lot of the movie frustrating.

casey The story that worked for me most was Yussef and Ahmed. They’re good kids, and their father, although harsh, is not a bad man, but they find themselves in an ultimately tragic situation beyond their ability to control. There’s a sense of fundamental goodness that runs through every character in Babel, which I appreciated, although none of the other stories grabbed me the same way.

brooke Oh, absolutely. Watching Yussef and Ahmed fall apart as they deal with the aftermath of their actions was the part I found most interesting. That and the very American Jones couple struggling to find medical care in a completely foreign setting.

casey Thematically, the movie’s title says a lot about its intentions: it’s a film about miscommunication, and the ways it can lead to tragedy and redemption. At times it feels like a blunt emotional sledgehammer, and the jumping between very different characters and settings kept it from feeling cohesive to me, but it has a few nice moments.

brooke I see what you mean. I can also see why some people liked it. I don’t think film deserves accolades as a whole, but it does portray real life pressure in rough situations in a way that doesn’t come across in a lot of films. Props for that… and I’ll probably never watch it again.

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