"Babel" Review

Title: Babel
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchette, Gael Garcia Bernal, Koji Yakusho
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Genre(s): Drama
Rated: R (For violence, some graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use)

In Genesis Chapter 11 it is said that men, unified under one common language, decided to build a tower that would reach to the heavens, proving that they were greater then God. They were to call this tower Babel. God, sensing that united nothing would be impossible for them, confused their languages to prevent the tower from being finished. Years later people have found the ability to learn other languages but the language barriers still causes lots of problems. None the least of which is in "Babel," where a lack of communication manages to cause much grief due to simple misunderstandings. Like "Crash" from the year before, "Babel" is not a straightforward movie. It revolves around four storylines in three countries: Mexico, Morocco, and Japan. All these stories are connected, though it may take time for this to become obvious. The first storyline revolves around two Moroccan teenagers who are playing with a gun their father just bought in order to protect their flock of sheep.
While shooting at a tour bus, they accidently shoot an American tourist (played by Cate Blanchette), which leads to the most obvious story connection in the movie. Blanchette's husband is played by Brad Pitt, who now has a wife dying of a gunshot wound, and no means of medical support. This in turn makes the family late in returning home to the states, where the family maid Amelia (Adriana Barraza) decides to take the children to Mexico with her so that she can attend her sons wedding, and finds herself having difficulty getting back into the States at the borderline. Then we hop over to Japan, where we follow a deaf girl played by Rinko Kikuchi, who feels distanced from her father (Koji Yakusho) and tries solicit her body for sex in a sadly misguided attempt at finding happiness. The connection between these stories involve everything, and yet nothing at all.
If that doesn't make much sense, let me elaborate a bit. All these stories connect to one main thread. This much is obvious, otherwise there would be no reason to have the four stories in the first place. How they all connect is what makes it interesting. Each one of these individual stories would work well as it's own movie, but is instead molded into one single narrative. Like "Crash" and "Syriana" you need to pay close attention to all the storylines, as this movie is like a jigsaw puzzle: Putting together piece by piece until you get the whole picture in plain view. If you don't have the patience for this type of film making, then it's suggested you skip this movie and watch something less complicated. Though I was a fan of "Syriana" and an even bigger fan of "Crash," I do admit my enthusiasm for this type of film making is wearing just a little bit thin. It was a novel idea with those two movies, but now I'm getting tired of the whole thing.
The one problem you have with these types of movies is that you can't really delve into the storyline of characters with too much detail. The storyline because it makes no sense outside of a basic summery, and the characters because the characterizations aren't always there. There is a huge conflict with the screenplay when it comes to the storyline revolving around the deaf Japanese teenager. Rinko Kikuchi's storyline is the most heartbreaking of the four. It's the most difficult role to play, and it's conclusion is very bittersweet. Since this storyline is the emotional high point of the movie though, it's troublesome that this storyline has two huge problems with it. The first problem is the sexual content in this storyline borders on exploitation despite it's necessity in telling the story. The second problem is that the Japanese storyline is the weakest link to the whole structure, and could have been completely cut from the movie without anyone noticing that anything was even missing (the only point the Japanese storyline serves is to show that the gun used by the Moroccan boys was given to the father by the girls father).
The fact that the most emotional storyline is easy expendable shows that this movie could have used more heart. The storyline surrounding the Moroccan boys sets off the whole storyline, yet that storyline is the least emotionally involved. The caretakers trip through the dessert is emotionally involving, yet one wonders whether or not the movie could have survived without it. Obviously the most important storyline in the movie is that of Brad Pitt, who is desperately trying to save his dying wife with nothing to work with. On a whole, I guess "Babel" works as a mild curiosity. Watching the movie certainly won't result in boredom, but how does one go back to a movie that adds up to one thing: That someone pulled the trigger and due to a lack of communication in the languages there was chaos. It's an interesting question to be sure, and one wonders whether or not the film maker would have been better off making a film trilogy instead of forcing three movies into one. It's a good movie, but I can certainly live if I never see it again. 

Parents, will want to preview this film for language, sexual situations, and violence. Recommended for ages 17 and up.