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

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