Unrelentingly, unremittingly sad, excruciatingly painful, all for no valid reason, Alejandro González Iñárritu's Babel is a movie to avoid at all costs.
Don't go see Babel
if you are a Cate Blanchett fan: she writhes in agony for most of the film, after getting randomly shot by a Middle-Eastern kid with a rifle while riding a tour bus in the Moroccan desert. Blanchett writhes well, and when she screams in agonized pain after a local vet sews her bullet wound, I not only closed my eyes, but put my fingers in my ears.
Don't go see the film for Brad Pitt. The A- list American hunk looks decidedly middle-aged and tired in Babel. He sports a scruffy beard and tries to prove he's got some gravitas in that celebrity-propelled career of his. He'll need another movie--the chemistry between Brad and Cate will not send them off making babies.
Don't go for the tremendously talented Gael Garcia Bernal, either. As carefree, exuberant guest at a Mexican wedding, Bernal is a bright spot. He's got charisma to spare even when he rips off a chicken's head. But Babel
is an ensemble film, and Bernal doesn't get to do much--except freak out at a border crossing and behave badly at the film's conclusion. (None of the characters in Babel
behave admirably. Not the Japanese, Moroccan, Mexicans, or the American tourists. None of them. It's a world full of unfortunate people and regrettable behavior.)
Don't even go for the cute, naked teenage Japanese girl played by non-famous cast member Rinko Kikuchi. Her stark nudity is gratuitous, one more manifestation of pain. This deaf mute girl is in a lot of pain. Everybody in Babel is in pain. This includes the audience.
Don't even go if you admire the work of widely admired filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu. Honestly, I fell into that very trap. I was left spellbound by his previous film 21 Grams
, another time-jumping, emotionally wrenching film. "Challenging, uncomfortable, and uniquely moving," I wrote in my review. The pain in 21 Grams
, however, had a pay-off, an unexpected resolution with remarkable resonance.
Rather than exploring new territory, Inarritu only picks up the themes he left off: chance tragedy, grief, and the search for redemption. He takes it further this time, increasing his star power, spanning the globe, and offering a pointless observation on the lack of communication between humans. The story lines in Babel are all connected, but there is no connection between the characters. There is no redemption in Babel, only pain.