Nobody has ever told me that they enjoyed this film, and weighing in with a hefty 2.5 hours viewing time, I was a little reluctant at first to give it a try. Having missed the other two films in the supposed trilogy of Iñárritu's recent works, I had no idea what to expect, though I honestly expected a pretentious piece that only appealed to limp-wristed media students gunning for a new asset to adsorb into their already feeble persona.
In reality, the inclusion of Hollywood superstars would always deny Babel of a place amongst the 'cult classic' elite of independent films, but that doesn't mean it's easy watching for the average viewer. The film centres around three different groups of people in three very different situations. Although the characters are interlinked, they never interact with one another. In fact, some of the links between the characters are so tenuous that I almost expelled real laughter.
Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, from what I can tell, are enduring a torrid and loveless marriage. This all changes when a young Moroccan mountain boy shoots the roof of a bus to test the range of his new hunting rifle. Somewhere in mid air, the bullet changes to an impossible trajectory and comes through a side window, severely wounding the pallid and gaunt Blanchett. You could be forgiven for thinking that she was already a corpse, but this event rekindles some deep-lying feeling of compassion in her husband and he endures to save her life.
Meanwhile, in Japan, a young girl deals with all the uneasy tribulations of youth with the added obstruction of being deaf and mute. Her ambition is to achieve a sense of belonging amongst her young peers, who are mostly ignorant and obnoxious to her disability.
Finally, the nanny of Pitt/Blanchett's children is a Mexican lady, forced to bring the youngsters along to a wedding in her native homeland. After an exuberant and exciting party, she makes the inspired decision to cross back to the USA with her nephew - about 100 times over the limit - as her chauffeur; something Border Patrol don't take too kindly to.
Guessing from the title of the film, Iñárritu clearly had some point to make about language. However, I really fail to see just exactly what that point was. The only storyline in which language was a barrier to functioning was for the Japanese girl who couldn't speak. Both the Mexican and Moroccan story lines all had characters who were multilingual, and the only real frustrations were vented between characters who spoke the same language as each other. The real problem I had with this film is the complete lack of closure from each of the story trails. There seemed to be absolutely no drastic consequences for any of the characters to deal with as a result of the decisions they'd made during the course of the film. The film felt ultimately pointless.
This is an immense shame, considering each story was actually entertaining. At no point was I bored with the chain of events, with the Japanese story being my particular favourite. I thought Babel would be leading to some big, intelligent culmination/disaster/bringing together, but none of this materialised into anything of note and that let the whole film down. Considering I've given it quite a generous rating despite this, I only wonder how great it could've been with a decent finale.