The Sum of a Gun
Director Alejandro GonzÃ¡lez IÃ±Ã¡rritu does not make ordinary movies and as such they can be hard work when you are not in the right frame of mind. Take "Babel" here we have a movie which consists of 4 stories, two boys with a gun tending goats, a couple of tourists in Morocco who are involved in an incident, a woman forced to take the children she looks after across the border into Mexico and a young deaf girl in Japan who is struggling with life. These 4 stories whilst all individual dramas are connected in a "Butterfly Effect" sort of way as in something which happens in one has a knock on effect in the other. There is nothing wrong with that except for the fact that 3 of these stories feel nicely connected whilst the fourth feels unrelated and it makes it hard work. Shame really because each of these stories are quite powerful and grab your attention, it's just the final piece of the puzzle which relates the fourth story to the others feels too weak.
"Babel" starts with a Moroccan farmer buying a rifle so that his sons can use it to shoot jackals whilst tending to his herd of goats. Of course young boys with a rifle spells trouble as they each take turns seeing if they can shoot things and seeing how far away they can hit things which leads to the youngest taking a shot at a moving bus far off in the distance.
We then have the story of Amelia; she is a Mexican who lives in America where she looks after two young children. Because the children's parents are unable to return to take care of the children Amelia is forced to take them with her across the border to Mexico to attend her son's wedding. But the return journey doesn't go well when an incident at the border forces them to run.
Next we have Richard and Susan Jones on holiday in Morocco trying to sort out issues in their strained marriage. But an incident leaves Susan fighting for her life and Richard desperately trying to get help to save her, stuck in a small Moroccan village miles from proper medical services.
Now I am not spoiling things when I say that these 3 stories are connected in a very obvious way as the young boys have accidentally shot Susan and as such Susan and Richard can't get back from holiday so that their nanny Amelia can go to her sons wedding as planned. And the ripple effect of these storylines work well together with each having great moments of drama which keep you interested.
But then there is the fourth story that of deaf Japanese girl Chieko Wataya who since her mother's death has found life tough and just desires attention. In fact she desires attention so much that she is willing to sleep with anyone just to feel closeness but finds her age and the disability preventing this from happening. How this fourth story is connected to the other 3 is for me the movies weakness because Chieko's story is great but it is so unrelated that when we do get the connection it is a let down. And it is a shame because Rinko Kikuchi who plays Chieko delivers the movie's best performance, a touching portrayal of a young girl who feels shut off from the world, from her father and deeply missing the attention which her mother gave her.
Having said that there are good performances through out and whilst Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett maybe the big well known names they are often outshone by the actors in the other parts of the movie. Boubker Ait El Caid as young Yusaf, the Moroccan boy who fires the gun is just brilliant and delivers the big climax of this story perfectly. Just as good is Adriana Barraza as Amelia, delivering the fear as she has to deal with trying to get the two children she cares for too safety whilst also dealing with the issues of the border crossing guards. Even the smallest of parts work and it is a huge reason why "Babel" despite being different is still watch able despite also being hard work.
What this all boils down to is that "Babel" is both a good movie but one which is also hard work especially when you are not in the right frame of mind. It does have problems most notably from the weak way the fourth story connects to the first 3 but between IÃ±Ã¡rritu's direction and the dramatic individual stories as well as some terrific performances it is well worth a watch.