Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
- Brad Pitt as Richard Jones
- Cate Blanchett as Susan Jones
- Adriana Barraza as Amelia
- Gael García Bernal as Santiago
- Rinko Kikuchi as Chieko Wataya
- Koji Yakusho as Yasujiro Wataya
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s ambitious and thought-provoking film spans three continents and many characters whose lives are linked by an accident. Although this may sound like a film that will confuse many, it actually emerges as a haunting comment on the lack of communication between humans and how universal the feeling is.
In Morocco, American tourists Richard and Susan are attempting to heal the wounds left by the death of their infant child. The loss has strained their relationship and affected both of them deeply. Whilst on a tour bus through the extensive mountains, Susan is accidentally shot by two young goatherds. The injured Susan is taken to a nearby village for treatment, whilst waiting for help to arrive from the American Embassy. Intercut with this is the two boy’s reactions to the accident and what they will do next. Meanwhile, the couple’s Mexican nanny Amelia, takes their children across the border to Mexico to attend her son’s wedding. Whilst coming back with her nephew Santiago, they are questioned by border control and flee into the arid desert. Amelia then tries to help the children make it back home before the desert claims them. Rounding out the stories is the one of Cheiko, a deaf-mute Japanese girl who is reeling from her mother’s recent suicide and has become cold towards her father because of this. In a way to mask her pain, she becomes sexually uninhibited but still can’t rid herself of the feeling of isolation. As told in Inarritu’s trademark non-linear narrative and written by Guillermo Arriaga , this sprawling character study is both melancholy and reflective in its examination of interlinked events.
The acting in Babel adds to the story immensely. As the tourists struck by sudden tragedy whilst dealing with conflicting emotions , Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett turn in strong, emotional performances. Gael García Bernal is also on typically good form here, I can’t think of a time when he isn’t great. But the real highlights come from Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi. Barraza creates a strong, loving character who will do anything to protect the children she has been entrusted with. Her face when trying to look for help in the unforgiving desert runs the whole gamut of emotions. Kikuchi as the isolated, troubled and melancholy Chieko is outstanding, conveying the character’s pain and inner conflict with the tiniest of nuances. Her breakdown when she remembers her mother is heart-wrenching in its believability.
The camerawork featured throughout is stunning, capturing the difference in cultures and landscapes that separate the many characters making up the story. The sparse but evocative music further shows the theme of communication as it often plays over scenes of confusion between the characters.
A powerful and emotionally draining film that will not be for everyone , Babel is still a multi-stranded and powerfully acted study of personal confusion and conflict and the far-reaching effects of it.