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Review (9/10)
(By Liam Cullin)

"Babel" is the latest ensemble drama from acclaimed director Alejandro Gonz?lez I??rritu. The title of the movie refers to the story in the Bible (Genesis Chapter 11) where a group of bible folk tried to build a tower (the Tower of Babel) to reach Heaven. To punish them for their arrogance, God stopped them by making it so they all spoke different languages and couldn't communicate with one another. They were then scattered to different parts of Earth. So does the movie tell the story of the Tower of Babel? No. Instead, "Babel" tells a number of intersecting stories about the world we live in and the problems we suffer due to our inability to communicate with one another.

The first story (and the one you'll probably hear the most about simply because of the actors involved) features Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett as a married couple who are visiting Morocco. To start things off, their marriage isn't exactly the most stable marriage in the history of holy matrimony. So, one day they're traveling by bus through the rocky terrain of a foreign country when a gunshot rocks the bus and wounds Cate Blanchett. Brad Pitt flies into hysterics trying to save her life. However, since he's in a foreign country, he suffers from his inability to communicate with the locals. There are also communication problems between the governments of Morocco and the USA over how to deal with the incident since it may involve an act of terrorism.

Then, there's the story of the shooters, a couple of young boys who are given a gun by their father to help guard the family's herd of sheep. They are fooling around with the gun and fire a shot on a passing bus. At first, they are reluctant to tell anybody what happened for fear of the trouble they might find themselves in, but when the authorities come knocking, they are forced to come out with the truth with tragic consequences.

Our next story follows the children of Pitt and Blanchett. They are living back in California under the care of the family nanny, Amelia (played by I??rritu regular Adriana Barraza) When the shooting occurs, delaying the return of their parents, Amelia tries to find somebody else to watch the children so that she can attend a wedding in Mexico. When her search is unsuccessful, she is forced to bring the children over the border to attend the festivities along with her nephew Santiago (Gael Garc?a Bernal). When traveling back over the border later that evening, they are stopped and questioned by the border patrol. After a couple of miscommunications (and a couple of smart-ass answers from Santiago) they are asked for some identification at which point Santiago tries to escape and dumps Amelia and the children in the middle of the desert.

The final story deals with Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi) and her father Yasujiro (K?ji Yakusho). Chieko is a deaf mute who has a whole other set of communication problems. She just wants to get laid. And because her inability to communicate makes her "different" she has a chip on her shoulder and isn't afraid to give a little attitude to anyone and everyone who she thinks deserves it. (She also isn't afraid to show a little skin thinking that's the only way to get people to pay attention to her.) How does her father fit into all of this? Well, that isn't really revealed until the end of the movie, so I won't bother talking about it here.

Babel is probably one of the best movies I have seen this year. The story alone is fantastic and really opened my eyes to a lot of problems with the world these days. Maybe if we tried a bit harder to understand one another... The construction of the story is another excellent point here. To be able to tell several different stories at once and to make the movie make as much sense as it did takes effort, and that shows here. (However, if I had one complaint with the film's structure, it'd be that the end of the movie is given away in the opening minutes. This took away from the urgency of one of the film's storylines, however not so much so to negatively impact the rest of the movie.) In terms of the acting, given the film's all-star line-up there's not a lot to say here. Just a great job all around.

The problem with a movie like Babel it getting people to see it. (Unfortunately, this isn't exactly the kind of material that blockbusters are made of.) The movie opens in limited release over the next few weeks and I urge you to check it out if it's opening near you. It's an excellent example quality filmmaking combined with an excellent story and solid acting. You probably won't see a better movie this year.


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