Babel (15)



Drama (2006)
143mins US/Mex

Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal, Rinko Kikuchi
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Writer(s): Guillermo Arriaga
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Multi-lingual thriller drawing together three seemingly unrelated storylines. Married couple Richard and Susan are travelling through Morocco when their tour bus comes under fire from an unseen sniper. In Mexico, housekeeper Amelia takes charge of her employers' children for the weekend but her trip to a family wedding ends in disaster. Meanwhile, in Tokyo, deaf-mute student Chieko begins to explore her sexuality, with surprising consequences.

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Won Best Original Score at The 79th Academy Awards® (25th February 2007)

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LondonNet Film
Babel

Forget Hollywood, Britain or indeed the rest of Europe. For the most exciting filmmaking creativity and flair, look no further than Mexico...

Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in Babel. Paramount Pictures UKDirectors Alfonso Cuaron (Children Of Men) and Guillermo Del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) continue to go from strength to strength, and now their countryman Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu delivers his finest picture to date.

Reuniting with screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, who penned his first two films (the bravura Amores Perros and 21 Grams), Inarritu crafts an exquisite multi-lingual thriller, which draws together four seemingly unrelated storylines, finding that suffering and redemption traverse language and geographical boundaries.

Babel melds a distinctive and thrilling visual style with rich, emotional storytelling on a vast, sprawling canvas, shot on three continents in four different languages. It's a bold, audacious work fired by the collective energy of Inarritu and his regular collaborators, including director of photography Rodrigo Prieto, editor Stephen Mirrione and production designer Brigitte Broch.

The film opens in the dry heat of Morocco, where Richard (Brad Pitt) and his wife Susan (Cate Blanchett) are travelling through Morocco, when their tour bus comes under fire from an unseen sniper. Susan is badly injured and Richard begs the other passengers for help but they are more concerned with their own welfare.

Meanwhile, in American suburbia, Mexican housekeeper Amelia (Adriana Barraza) takes charge of her employers' children Mike (Nathan Gamble) and Debbie (Elle Fanning) for the weekend. Her decision to accompany reckless nephew Santiago (Gael Garcia Bernal) to a family wedding across the border ends in disaster.

In Tokyo, deaf-mute student Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi) begins to explore her sexuality and to reconnect with her estranged businessman father (Koji Yakusho) in the aftermath of her mother's death.

And back in Africa, two brothers (Boubker Ait El Caid, Said Tarchini) fight for ownership of their father's newly acquired rifle, which they intend to use to ward off jackals from their herd of goats. The childish squabble leads to tragedy that sends shockwaves around the globe.

Screenwriter Arriaga cuts back and forth between the emotionally wrought storylines, cleverly revealing the film's fractured chronology, and the coincidences, which draw these disparate characters together. Some of the narrative threads connecting the characters are gossamer thin and admittedly, there are a few lapses in logic (Amelia would have arranged alternative child-care so she could attend the wedding).

However, the script works beautifully, peppered with great dialogue, like when little Mike remarks, "My mom told me that Mexico is dangerous," and Santiago responds mischievously, "It is. It's full of Mexicans."

Performances are exemplary across the board, particularly Kikuchi as a young woman desperate to let out a primal scream of grief she fears will never be heard. Feted as one of the frontrunners at this year's Oscars, Babel confirms Inarritu as one of the most exciting and gifted filmmakers of his generation.

- Sophie Abell

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