Director: Alejandro González Iñarritu
Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Moahamed Akhzam, Peter Wight, Rinko Kikuchi, Kôji Yakusho
Writer: Guillermo Arriaga (idea and writer) and Alejandro González Iñarritu (idea)
Music: Gustavo Santaolalla
Production: France-USA-Mexico, 2006
Runtime: 143 minutes
Today I´m going to take a look at Babel, yes I know it’s a very well know movie but this review is for those people that didn´t watch it. Even I didn’t see it until everybody was talking about it, and why is that? Well let´s just say I´m not a Bradd Pitt fan. However, after some month later I decided to watch it. And guess what? I like it, despite of Bradd Pitt´s performance. This multi narrative drama was directed by Alejandro González Iñarritu and was written by Guillermo Arriaga. The movie takes place in Morocco, Japan, México and United States. It´s an international co-production (France. Mexico and the US). The movie has won numerous awards but the most important is the Oscar they got for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Picture, Original Scored by Gustavo Santaolalla in the 2007.
The general plot is divided into four different but interrelated stories set in various countries around the world. In the movie, many of the events are revealed out of sequence and the plot holes are filled as the movie progress. I think it will be a good idea to describe the plot the same way Wikipedia did, so you can understand it more easily.
Marocco – In the southern region of Morocco, two boys (Yussef and Ahmed) are playing with a rifle gun his father (Abdullah, a goat herder) gave them so they can defend their goats. Abdullah bought the 270 Winchester M70 rifle from his neighbor. The two young boys decide to test their aim firing at rocks, a moving car and then a tourist bus on the highway below. Yussed´s bullet hits Susan Jones, an American woman who travels with her husband. The bus suddently stops, the two boys realizes that maybe they hit someone in the bus and flee the scene, on their way back they hide the rifle in the mountains. Soon the US government got the news of this “terrorist attack” and they pressure the Moroccan government to apprehend the responsable, they trace the rifle back to Hassan and after a violent and rough torture, he reveals that a Japanese man gave him the rifle and that he sold it to Abdullah. The two boys finally tells their father what they have done, as they see the police caravan approaching their house they flee towards the mountains. The police corner them and start to open fire; they hit Ahmed in the leg and Yussef start to fire back. Panicked Ahmed starts to run but it´s hit in the back. Yussef eventually surrenders and confesses his crime, begging clemency for his family and ask for medical assistance for his brother.
This plot is interspersed with scenes of Richard and Susan, the two American tourists that were in the bus. When Susan is shot, they decide to take her to the nearest town called Tazarine. There she is sew up by the local veterinarian, the tour bus wait for some hours but they decide to leave them since they are afraid of been attack again, Richard begs them to wait until they can translate her but the bus leave the town. With the only phone in the town, Richard calls the US embassy to transport her to a hospital, since the zone is marked as red he has to wait. After some days, the helicopter comes and takes Susan to the nearest hospital. Richard tries to give some money to the person that helps him but he refuse. After five days, Susan recovers from her injuries. They both return to America.
Japan – Chieko Wataya is a deaf Japanese teenage girl that is having trouble with her life. The recent suicide of her mother have left her with a trauma, angry with her father (Yasujiro Wataya) for not taking care of her mother, she is finding difficult to connect with him. She also seems to be sexually frustrated and that leads to sexually exhibiting behaviors. One day two police men shows at her department and ask her questions about her father. Chieko feels attractive to one of the detectives, Kenji Mamiya, later she invites him to the apartment to talk about her father. Believing that the police are after her father for the suicide of her mother she reveals to Kenji that her father was asleep when her mother jumped off the balcony and she was a witness. However, the police are investigating Yasujiro for another reason; apparently, he has been in Morocco for a hunting trip and gave the rifle to his hunting guide, Hassan, the one that sold the rifle to Abdullah.
Chieko then reveals her real motive in inviting him to the apartment, she gets naked and tries to seduce him, Kenji resist her approaches but comforts her as she burst into tears. Before he leaves, she writes him a letter but tells him not to read it until he is gone. As Kenji leaves the building, he encounters Yasujiro and he explains that the rifle was given to Hassan and no black market was involved. Kenji also gives his condolences for his wife suicide. Confused, Yasujiro explains that her wife had shot herself in the head, and that Chieko was the first to find the body. Later Yasujiro finds her daughter nude in the balcony. The story ends as Kenji is reading the note at a bar.
Mexico/US – Amelia is a Mexican nanny that takes care after Richard and Susan´s children. She wants to attempt his sun wedding in Tijuana, Mexico but she can´t find any other nanny to take care after them for one night. Finally, she decides to take them with her, with the consent of Richard, her nephew Santiago drives them to Mexico. The wedding party extends throughout the night and finished very late, instead of passing the night in Mexico, Amelia tells his nephew to drive them back to US. As they arrive the border patrol Santiago, who had drink too much starts to get angry. The police officer becomes suspicious and orders them to pull over. Amelia has the kid’s passports but she didn’t carry any written consent that she could take them out of the country. Santiago knowing that they were in trouble decides to speed up and pass the control; after a while he decides to let Amelia and the kids out of the car, in the middle of the desert, so he can lose the police. Amelia and the kids, passes the night in the desert, in the mourning she decides to left the kids behind so she can get help faster, she promises the kids she will be back. After a long time she finally finds a US border patrol officer and explains the situation. Amelia is put into custody and is taken to the Patrol Border, where an officer reveals that they found the kids and they were all right, he also informs her that the family agrees not to press charges on her. However, because of his illegal condition she has to leave the US. She had lived in the US for more than 16 years as she took after the children for a long time she now faces deportation. At the end, her son comes to the border to pick her up.
I like movie that have multi narrative stories, especially when they are done in the right way, this movie does a good job in mixing the different stories , it can be said that it has the same dynamic as Crash (2004), directed by Paul Haggis. Interesting thing I discover that the actor Michael Peña worked for both movies, in Crash he got a protagonist part as Daniel de person who fix the locks and in Babel, he got a small part as a Patrol Police Officer. Now let´s talk about the stories, and I will start with the one that least interests me.
Richards and Susan Jones – (Cate Blanchett/Brad Pitt). I still don’t know why some critics comment that this was one of the best performance of Brad Pitt. In my opinion this is the weakest story of all, because nothing appends, Ok Susan was shot in the bus but throughout the movie, all they do is wait until the helicopter arrives. The characters are not solid, they are a couple that are having trouble connecting with each other, nothing new there. This story is the connector between others stories, the two Moroccan boys and Amelia´s story, but that´s all. To be clear it´s a central story but I think it´s not as interesting as the other stories.
Yussef and Ahmed – (Boubker Ait El Caid/Said Tarchani). What happened when kids operates guns? Usually things get ugly, the innocence of shooting rocks with a M70 Rifle finished with a victim. One thing is to break a glass with a football another is to kill a person while playing. Yussef learn that lesson the hard way. Bearing in mind that this two young actors haven’t work in another film (at least not documented by IMDB and other websites) they pull out a good performance.
Amelia – (Adriana Barraza). I like this story because it has the immigrant theme. I like how the difference of culture and class is shown in this story. In addition, it gets me sad in the end when Amelia has to leave the US not knowing if she will see the kids again. Working with this family for so long the kids must have formed a relationship with her, which I didn’t saw it in the movie. Despite been one of the best story of the film I have some critics to this one, my big problem (maybe because I don’t know US legislation) is, Why the Border Patrol let her take this kids across the border? Even if they had their passports, she would need the written approval of their parents to exit the country, right?
Chieko Wataya – (Rinko Kikuchi) The best story of the movie, in fact it would be a great shot film if they cut the rest of the movie. This movie is directly connected with the one about the Morocco brothers. I think the plots holes are what makes this story the best and the most interesting, at least for me. The actors are remarkable. You can analyze many things in Chieko´s character, you can think of the trauma that her suicide mother left her and the impossibility she has to express that anger and frustration towards his father deviates in some odd behavior. The fact that she is deaf also interferes the way she relates with others. You can think also what kind of society she is living this alienated and segregator society that expulse the one who is different. One of my favorite scene is when they go to the disco, at that moment I didn’t thought how Chieko would feel life. When the sound stops, because the movie is focusing on Chieko, you can realize who crazy life must be for her and how crazy is real life. After seen the movie all I could think was what happened to her? What was on the letter she gave to the detective? Seriously, I couldn’t sleep thinking all that.
Finally, I want to talk about the soundtrack of this movie. Santaolalla has to be one of the best Argentinean musicians that creates music for movies. If you find the soundtrack for this movie, don’t doubt, buy it. I will leave a link to one of the songs of Babel. For the next time, I picked “Capote” (2005) the movie that gave Philip Seymour Hoffman an Oscar in 2006. As always leave your comments, see you next time.
By Sebastián Nadilo