Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Rinko Kikuchi
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Running Time: 143 mins
Babel is an American film following the devastating events surrounding four families across the world after tragedy hits one of them while on holiday in the Moroccan desert.
This is a seriously grim film. With almost no moments of real happiness, this reaches near-Requiem For A Dream levels of depression, and so can be often a really tough watch. Despite that, it’s such a well-directed and well-acted film, and its extremely dark tone is so strong it’s almost impossible to look away from, and that ultimately makes for a pretty engrossing watch.
The plot is almost like an anthology, following four different stories that all seem completely apart, but are just linked in some way or other. Fortunately, that format works really well in this story, and it’s easy to get really intrigued in the various events going on all around the world, and the fact that they are different stories means that the film keeps feeling fresh as you go along.
Because bear in mind that this is nearly two and a half hours long, and it doesn’t move at what you would call breakneck pace. However, having these various different stories means that, even if you’re not so intrigued in one part of the story, which does happen, you can look forward to the return of other plots, and that means that it’s so much easier to stay interested in what’s happening in what I would otherwise see as an excessively slow-paced and pretentious film.
Moving onto the performances, they’re pretty fantastic. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett (in arguably the smallest story of all four) are very good, Rinko Kikuchi is hugely unnerving in her role, and Adrian Barraza, whilst not immediately impressing, grows and grows as the film goes on, and in the end gives an absolutely sterling performance.
But what’s best about this whole film is Iñárritu’s direction. With slow takes, massive wide shots and POV scenes, there’s something unmistakably hypnotic about his techniques. From start to finish, I found Babel visually mesmerising, and Iñárritu’s beautiful and engrossing directing was easily a key factor in keeping me intrigued with the film, so huge credit to him there.
Finally, let’s talk about how grim this film really is. As I said before, it’s almost never positive, and no matter how bad I thought it could get, there always seemed to be something worse just on the horizon to make it an even more depressing film.
Is that a good thing? Well, on the one hand, the extreme darkness of it all is just as hypnotic and eye-catching as Iñárritu’s direction, and that is definitely the prevailing effect of the atmosphere. On the other hand, however, there are moments where the story seems to be going to such dark places, and yet it doesn’t seem like there’s any reasoning behind it. Generally, it’s an effective tone, but there are moments where I felt I was being emotionally devastated by the film, and yet wasn’t getting any more insight into the developing plot.
Overall, Babel is an impressive film. It’s certainly not a nice watch, but its impressive performances, story and directing all come together to make a truly captivating watch, and that’s why it gets a 7.5 from me.