3.0, Latin America/Spain, United States/Canada


2006 / Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu > Babel is an unfortunate failure on many parts: Samuel L. Jackson’s now-infamous “Crash Benetton” comment at Cannes is one of the simplest yet most accurate depictions of this film. It reeks of a lazily contrived storyline, hellbent on deriving some sort of bigger meaning through mishaps and the obvious. Wherein Amores Perros tried to be an objective narrator, Babel instead chooses to manipulate the action to the conclusion it sees fit. Of the four storylines, only the Japanese one holds a sense of legitimacy: It’s raw, driven with emotion and mystery and is ultimately utilized as a stopgap measure on the remainder of the mess.

The film is beautiful: For Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography, one would hope that he gets another Oscar nod after last year’s unsuccessful bid with Brokeback Mountain. Undoubtedly, the two best performances of the film come from Adriana Barraza as the Mexican caretaker of Pitt’s children, and Rinko Kikuchi’s deaf-mute Japanese schoolgirl in need of male attention. The latter, especially, is a bewildering success, even stealing the limelight from veteran Japanese actor Koji Yakusho’s subtle and masterful acting. This is also Gael Garcia Bernal’s weakest to date.

To say the least, this worries me about Inarritu. Sadly, he reminds me of the path Guy Ritchie has taken, in constantly repeating an initially successful technique until it’s so over the top that it just loses all credibility (see Revolver). It will be good to see him pair up with a writer other than Guillermo Arriaga, who seems to be quite busy on his own these days after his falling out with Inarritu over the authorship of 21 Grams. The potential herein was immense, with a global concept that, to my knowledge, has never been attempted. Too bad, then, that it falls into its own trap, filled with cliches and one-sided social commentary on what, exactly, we’re not even sure.