“Babel” was released in 2006. (same year Borat came out) It earned positive reviews from critics and movie goers alike. Besides good reception, the film made enough money at the box office. Babel went on to earn Oscar nominations including “Best Supporting Actress,” (Rinko Kikuchi) “Best Original Screenplay,” “Best Director,” (Alejandro González Iñárritu) “Best Film Editing,” “Best Original Score” (Gustavo Santaolalla) & “Best Picture.” It only won Best Original Score.
Although a Best Picture nominee, Babel is a criminally misunderstood underrated epic, also one of my guilty pleasures. It deserves more attention for its non-linear (out of order) narrative shifting between three stories in one epic event next to other non-linear movies like “Magnolia,” “Memento,” “Sin City” just to name a few good ones.
This review doesn’t contain no very important SPOILERS. I’m gonna give anybody a chance to see this international epic. Is Babel a win win or a pretentious Oscar Bait film trying too hard? Time to get to the bottom of the barrel.
Pros & Cons
Pros: The Main Cast including Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal, Rinko Kikuchi & Adriana Barraza all did an amazing job for their respective performances. Brad Pitt turned down a lead role in “The Departed” (also co-produced) to star in Babel. He’s a fan of Alejandro González Iñárritu’ works.
Alejandro “Al” González Iñárritu (21 Grams, Birdman, The Revenant) did an excellent job taking full responsibility as director. Al is one of my favorite directors.
Other Cast Members such as Elle Fanning, Nathan Gamble & Michael Peña also did an amazing job for their respective performances.
Babel is told in a non-linear (out of order) structure focusing on three continents set in Africa, North America & Asia. First Story is set in Morocco about two boys messing around with their father’s new rifle, they accidentally shoot a tourist bus inadvertently injuring a married woman named, Susan is from America. The woman’s husband Richard must find a way to get to a nearby hospital in order to save his wife. Second Story is set in America/Mexico when Richard & Susan’s Mexican nanny, Amelia is forced to take their kids feeling pressured she’ll miss her son’s wedding in Mexico. Her nephew, Santiago who accompanies then to the wedding. Third Story is set in Japan centers around a deaf and mute Japanese girl who’s struggling to cope after a family tragedy. She’s looking for an attractive boy to be with as a way to feel better. Her father has a pivotal connection to one of the other stories.
Gustavo Santaolalla (21 Grams, Brokeback Mountain, The Last Of Us, The Last Of Us Part II) did a magnificent job composing music. His acoustic guitar used in some scenes deserve an Extra Point. There’s a reason why Neil Druckmann & Naughty Dog hired Gustavo to score music for The Last Of Us & its divisive sequel.
My favorite piece from the soundtrack is “Bibo No Aozora.” It was played during a sad scene. Gustavo gets Bonus Points for making me teary eyed. Gustavo won an Oscar twice. First “Brokeback Mountain” and the aforementioned Babel. Again, there’s a reason why Neil & Naughty Dog hired Gustavo.
Fun Fact: Emmy winning actress, Julia Garner (Ozark) confirmed Babel is one of her favorite films.
Without giving too much away, the outcomes in each story vary in a different mood whether if it is a happy one, bittersweet, tragic or tears of Joy.
Babel’s title is named after “The Tower Of Babel.” I may not be a religious person but I’ll sum it up briefly as I can. A biblical origin myth about why our world speaks in different languages. Even Babel’s trailer describes the meaning of it.
Amelia mentioned she hasn’t worn her old red dress in years. A possible reference to “Requiem For A Dream.” Darren Aronofsky’s “The Fountain” came out the same year as Babel.
Cons: Cinematography suffers from a terrible case of Shaky Cam. I hate it when a cameraman never keeps the camera still.
If you’re not used to international films, this one contains subtitles in Spanish, Japanese, Arabic & Japanese Sign Language. It might not be your cup of tea. You’ll probably get annoyed when you look at the words. For me personally, I got used to the subtitles. I legitimately understand what’s going on whether somebody uses facial expressions or his/her actions elevate the plot forward. I’ll let this flaw slide.
The Final Verdict: A-
From my point of view, Babel is an underrated yet misunderstood international epic drama thriller that’ll keep you entertained from start to finish if you have the patience to endure subtitles in a two hour plus duration. The short version, it’s a win win. Some of the stuff I’ve listed in the positive section, indicates why Babel is one of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s best films next to “21 Grams,” “Birdman” & “The Revenant.” If you haven’t seen Babel, it’s a must-see film.