BABEL is the crowning achievement in the trilogy from the unstoppable creative pairing of screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga and director Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, which also includes AMORES PERROS (2000) and 21 GRAMS (2003).
Building upon its predecessors' method of weaving together disparate storylines, BABEL reaches new heights of ambition with a tale that, in the absence of traditional narrative and protagonist, relies on numerous incredible performances to evoke an affecting relevance by framing contemporary issues in very human struggles and mistakes.
Richard and Susan (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett) are a wealthy couple from San Diego who are vacationing in Morocco in order to heal after the death of their young child; their other two children are at home with their Mexican maid, Amelia (Adriana Barraza).
In a complex shift of ownership to which the audience is privy, a rifle finds its way into the hands of a local herdsman's young sons (Said Tarchani and Boubker Ait El Caid), who recklessly take a shot at a tour bus and catch Susan in the shoulder, causing her to nearly lose her life.
The distraught Richard calls home to tell Amelia of the situation, who promptly departs for Mexico to attend her child's wedding, with Richard and Susan's children in tow. Disaster thus multiplies, with the situation in Morocco ascribed to terrorists in the media, while Amelia meets with the harsh immigration policies of the Bush administration.
Meanwhile, in Tokyo, a widower (Koji Yakusho) tied to the rifle in question attempts to deal with his memories and his raucous, promiscuous, deaf daughter (Rinko Kikuchi).Nearly every performance of the film is devastating, offering an intimate, emotional experience that would approach melodrama if it weren't rendered so realistically.
Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto's color palette masterfully captures the muted tones of the harsh natural landscapes of Morocco and the Mexican border, as well as the fluorescent lights of Tokyo that denote another, though equally barren, end of the spectrum.
The misunderstandings born of cultural, language, and class barriers are on par with those that occur between family members, depicting a world that, while connected in the least expected of ways, is also faced with a deep-seated crisis that threatens to alienate humanity from itself.