TORONTO: In "Babel," The World Is Flat And Pain Is Universal

by | September 13, 2006 | Comments

"Babel" is a work of remarkable craft, a masterpiece of sensorial and emotional intensity. The film, which screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, is a bleak, disquieting film for our troubled times, and a palpable sense of tension permeates throughout.

Director Alejandro González Inarritu is at the height of his powers here; in presenting multiple plotlines set around the globe, he never shortchanges the drama of any individual sequence, nor is there any confusion about where we are at a given point. And while "Babel" puts the audience through the wringer, the end result is strangely hopeful and comforting; it’s a movie about the interconnectedness of humanity, in which people struggle mightily to find a way out of emotional and cultural seclusion.

Brad Pitt as Richard expresses his anguish in "Babel."

Richard (Brad Pitt) and Susan (Cate Blanchette) are a married couple touring Morocco by bus, when tragedy strikes, courtesy of a silly dare by two children firing rifles in the desert. Susan is mortally wounded, so Richard calls the couple’s nanny Amelia (Adriana Barraza) and tells her to continue taking care of their children for a few more days. But it’s the day of her son’s wedding, so she brings the children with her and her decent but unruly nephew (Gael Garcia Bernal) across the boarder into Mexico. Meanwhile in Japan, Chieko, a deaf teenager (Rinko Kikuchi) is bursting at the seams with teen angst as she tries to connect with her peers; she also warms to a police officer who’s looking for information about a gun her father once owned.

It feels wrong to say much more, since each of these scenarios builds to moments of incredible anxiety. There’s an organic feel to the way the three stories are linked; the events don’t feel contrived to fit an overarching message. This is sort of a "The World Is Flat" of the soul. The performances are uniformly excellent; Pitt, Blanchette and Bernal may be the biggest names here, but the international cast (especially Kikuchi), which includes many non-professionals, is more than up to the task.

Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi) wants acceptance from her peers.

There’s a passage in the middle of the film that’s as virtuoso as anything you’re likely to see all year. Chieko enters a pulsing dance club with some friends and a couple of guys they met earlier in the day. As Earth Wind and Fire’s "September" plays on the soundtrack, we get both the scene surrounding Chieko and her perspective. The combination of the flickering strobe light, the flurry of bodies in motion, and the intermittent blast of the music mixed with silence create a hypnotic sequence of disquieting power. It’s the greatest sequence in a film filled with remarkable moments, and it typifies the cinematic daring that makes Inarritu’s film such a joy to behold.

"Babel" currently stands at 100 percent on the Tomatmeter. The critics say it’s a remarkably ambitious and compassionate film featuring strong performances.

Tag Cloud

sports Ovation Apple DC streaming service romance Biopics Polls and Games binge BBC dceu Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt cults Thanksgiving Year in Review comiccon Rom-Com CNN robots Sundance Now TruTV X-Men Paramount Schedule historical drama CBS Certified Fresh 45 GoT TIFF BET Horror Opinion AMC Christmas APB Sony Pictures BBC America See It Skip It SDCC Interview based on movie Lionsgate Premiere Dates USA Network DirecTV Mindy Kaling YouTube Red Freeform 2016 Election Winners Logo SXSW boxoffice Awards ABC TLC ITV Rock crime Trailer Musical E! science fiction Syfy Toys SundanceTV talk show PaleyFest composers Nat Geo Marathons serial killer IFC Films GLAAD NYCC TBS Acorn TV thriller Red Carpet ratings Tomatazos Amazon A&E Sundance CMT Superheroe Tumblr DC Comics Fox News Mary Tyler Moore Crackle justice league RT History Sci-Fi Countdown 20th Century Fox transformers FOX festivals FX Kids & Family social media Columbia Pictures Action Infographic Creative Arts Emmys Lifetime hist Fantasy The CW aliens American Society of Cinematographers Spring TV VICE Paramount Network TCA 2017 Nickelodeon FXX politics Disney Channel unscripted crime drama Video Games travel Rocky Shondaland Western Starz President Box Office spy thriller dramedy technology period drama Disney golden globes E3 psycho MTV Photos cooking Music Podcast Winter TV Reality Watching Series Ghostbusters discovery Emmys biography 007 supernatural adventure Spike HBO Mystery National Geographic DC Universe Drama IFC Universal Extras VH1 Musicals Comedy TCM El Rey WGN Writers Guild of America Walt Disney Pictures Summer NBC Sneak Peek what to watch zombie MSNBC cats PBS History Star Trek war Adult Swim vampires ABC Family harry potter Hulu Character Guide Netflix finale Pirates ESPN Holidays Esquire Calendar Nominations Trivia Lucasfilm Cosplay LGBTQ Pixar CW Seed Cartoon Network docudrama Superheroes Animation Fall TV Britbox Pop YA Country cops Valentine's Day Dark Horse Comics diversity Showtime Warner Bros. CBS All Access streaming Oscars TV Land 24 frames Comedy Central cinemax Grammys TV singing competition political drama Best and Worst crime thriller Bravo 2017 GIFs Star Wars OWN Reality Competition The Arrangement Comic Book Martial Arts police drama medical drama TCA USA TNT Set visit Masterpiece Marvel 2015 21st Century Fox Food Network dc First Look sitcom Ellie Kemper Super Bowl zombies Teen crossover