The lives of six people intertwine in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 2006 Babel. Shot primarily on a hand-held camera, Babel impressively traverses the realms between human kindness and human suffering, tapping into humanity so acutely that the resulting film is both dramatic and compelling.
The film’s four intertwining stories centre around the consequences of one gun. After being given to an exceptionally good Moroccan tour guide by Yasujiro (Koji Yakusho), the Winchester rifle falls into the hands of two young brothers who begin to vie against each other to be best marksman. Such competition ends in tragedy as they shoot at a passing coach and accidently hit Cate Blanchett’s Susan. Susan’s neck wound is nigh-fatal and husband Richard (Brad Pitt) is left helpless with the prospect of the nearest hospital being hours away. A media frenzy begins only adding to their woes. Back home, Richard and Susan’s children are smuggled away to Mexico with their nanny Amelia (Adriana Barraza) as she attends a wedding. Set against all of this is the story of Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi), Yasujiro’s deaf daughter, who is finding it difficult to come to terms with her mother’s death. It’s all a lot less complicated on screen, we promise.
Thanks to the meatiness of each story you really feel like you’re getting value for money with Iñárritu’s Babel. Complimenting each other as well as furthering the development of one another, each story captivates from the off. The film is truly globe-engulfing; ranging from Morocco to Japan, Babel seamlessly, if perhaps unconsciously, explores the idea of six degrees of separation.
Hollywood stars Pitt and Blanchett refreshingly take a back seat allowing the stories themselves to provide the film with its focus. With time being slightly out of step throughout, each lead’s story is allowed to blossom and some with disastrous consequence.
The stories presented ensure that everyone’s tastes are catered for. Both touching and moving, Babel throws interesting light on the world we live in. Reality threatens to destroy each character’s life, with Susan’s life being put in jeopardy after her attack is labelled as an act of terrorism by the U.S. media whilst Chieko finds it increasingly difficult to ignore society’s degradation of her impediment. Amelia’s story is arguably the most striking with Barraza offering a stellar turn as the Mexican nanny.
Visually striking (thanks to its vibrancy that neatly jars with the depressing tone of many of its sub-plots), Babel is a memorable film that deserves a second watch.
Best performance: Adriana Barraza as Amelia
Watch this if you liked: Slumdog Millionaire, City of God
Brad Pitt opted to star in Babel over Scorsese’s The Departed.