Boxoffice raves about Pitt/Blanchett from Cannes

Babel

on October 27, 2006 by Richard Mowe
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In the same style as his two previous films, Amores Perros and 21 Grams, Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga cross-cut three stories which all are related to each other, to a greater or lesser degree. It opens in the Moroccan desert where a man buys a shotgun to protect his herd from predators. His sons decide to test the gun as soon as possible in the vast surrounding plains. As a game, they try to aim at a tourist bus below -- then they sense tragedy has struck when the driver turns off the motor, and they run off. An American woman, played by Cate Blanchett, has been inadvertently wounded and is taken to the hospital.

Cut to an upmarket abode in the U.S., where a Mexican nanny (Adriana Barraza) receives a call from her employer (Brad Pitt) who asks if she can look after his children because their mother has been hospitalized. The nanny was supposed to be going home for son's wedding on the other side of the border -- and she decides to take the children with her, accompanied by her nephew (Gael Garcia Bernal). The journey is anything but smooth, and they are confronted by border guards.

We then move to Tokyo, where a young deaf woman finds herself linked to a tragedy that the media are labeling as a terrorist act.

Babel works on many different levels, all spread out against a vast and complicated canvas. There are excellent performances from Blanchett as the wounded woman, suffering both emotionally and physically, and from Pitt, giving an impressively committed portrayal of pent-up anger and frustration.

It's all about themes with a contemporary edge: loneliness and isolation, fears and suspicions of other cultures and countries, and the gaps between rich and poor. There's a dazzling array of faces, languages and imagery that sears into your soul. In his previous films, Inarritu has shown a preference to shock, but here he finds his heart. Despite the lengthy running time and the demands on his audience, Babel should find as an enthusiastic a following in the States as it has done on the Riviera. Starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal, Koji Yaksuho, Adriana Barraza, Rinko Kikuchi, Elle Fanning and Nathan Gamble. Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Written by Guillermo Arriaga. Produced by Jon Kilik and Steve Golin. A Paramount Vantage release. Drama. Rated R for violence, some graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use. Running time: 142 min

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