I have been known to babel, although that’s not what this movie is about, but I do babel, so, uh, yeah!
Written By: Guillermo Arriaga
Directed By: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Babel is a confounding film, because it could have been great but it ends up mediocre. The problem with Babel lies in the fact that there is no depth to the story, or stories, being told. Outside of the character Chieko, not a single character in Babel has any depth to them or in the end matters except for as an artistic exercise. Babel is a film full of ideas, but ideas do not a movie make. Ideas and feelings about the world can be integral parts of any film, but they need depth, characterization and a decent plot around them. With the exception of Chieko, and she has no real plot to speak of, Babel doesn’t deliver anything to accompany the ideas it tries to put forth.
The cinematography in Babel is great, as is the score. The music is the one thing that keeps you invested in what is going on, and the cinematography transports you to every country featured. I was also a big fan of the acting of Rinko Kikuchi as Chieko, as well as Gael García Bernal’s attempts to add anything to the cliche role of Santiago. However, Kikuchi does shine in a great turn as a troubled youth who must confront her own demons as well as the intolerance of society around her. You do feel for Chieko and her scenes do provide the few moments where the direction is spot on with the handling of the loss of sound and its subsequent reemergence. However, Chieko is only a minor part of the film, so while that character may shine and Kikuchi’s performance is sublime, it isn’t enough to elevate Babel above its uneven nature.
The biggest problem with Babel comes in its message, the loss of communication. Alejandro González Iñárritu has made a movie bemoaning the loss of communication in the modern age that fails to communicate with its audience. If you really want us to feel the loss of communication then give us realistic scenarios, not a border crossing scene that is straight out of the wildest imagination. Or, give us real people, not an illegal immigrant that has been breaking the law for years, leaves two young children alone in the desert, and a woman that you then expect us to feel for because her own stupidity has been her downfall. Besides the fact that he character is completely immaterial, Amelia is also unrealistic to the extreme. Babel can’t deliver its message or its theme because it tries to do so with shallow characters, unrealistic situations and stereotypes galore.
Babel is a mediocre film, if you do happen to see it then watch the performance of Rinko Kikuchi and really pay attention to the Japan scenes and try to ignore the rest. There isn’t a reason to try and get invested in the other characters or scenarios, because they aren’t worthy of your attention or your time. Babel is yet another fractured storytelling venture that ends up being fractured in theme, acting, message, and the end result is a bloated movie that is easily skipped.