Main      Site Guide    
At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Babel (2006)



Reviews and Comments

Babel interweaves four interlocking stories together. All four stories revolve around a central tragedy, the accidental shooting of an American in Mexico. All four stories examine some separate consequence of this, some more integrally related than others. It's the kind of movie I normally like. Movies like this can give us a privileged perspective on life that is very much broader than the perspective we'd have if we were any particular character within the story. A little perspective, now and again, is good for the soul.

The trouble with Babel is that seldom was I ever duped into thinking that I was looking at an honest depiction of life and society. One quarter of Babel is pretty good. That would be the story that takes place in Japan. It is so tangentially related to the Mexico tragedy that it feels like some other movie crammed in. But it's the one piece of the movie that feels like an authentic and insightful look at what people are really like inside.

The rest feels like it goes out of its way to manufacture tragedy. One of stories, for example, concerns an illegal immigrant. Isn't life for this woman terrible, because of heartless government bureaucracy? Well, maybe, but this movie arrives at its conclusion by supposing a sequence of coincidence, improbability, and idiocy so long and convoluted as to make Rube Goldberg proud. It is not a compelling argument. Rather than eliciting my sympathy for the plight of the character, therefore, the movie simply upset me for being gratuitously tragic. All but the story in Japan felt like this to me: a straw man argument in dramatic form.