‘Babel’: ‘Crash’ version 2.0

Ben Breier

Connecting subplots rule large cast film

Brad Pitt carries an injured Cate Blanchett to safety in Babel.

Credit: Jason Hall

The language barrier is your enemy.

Babel, the latest and greatest from 21 Grams director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, has a lot of similarities with last year’s Academy Award-winning Crash.

Both films contain a central theme conveyed differently over the course of several subplots.

And both films tell a lengthy story that will cement you in your seat for more than two hours.

But Crash is bland, average and predictable -ÿwhile Babel is anything but.

By all accounts, Babel should be a predictable film. Within the first half hour of the movie, viewers are essentially given the story arc of the entire movie in a Romeo-and-Juliet fashion. The twists in the movie come from the execution and near-flawless storytelling.

Babel‘s story is told through four separate threads, which take viewers through the neon glow of Tokyo, scattered parts of the Middle East, sunny southern California and the vapid deserts of Mexico.

The story begins with a pair of young boys placebound in the mountains of Morocco. After one of the boys’ fathers issues the children a rifle to hunt jackals and protect their goat herd, the two decide to test the rifle’s unbelievable range on a traveling tour bus navigating the roads below.

It’s an accidental tragedy waiting to happen to Richard (Brad Pitt) and Susan (Cate Blanchett), who happen to be on the bus with 20 other tourists. The stray bullet penetrates a window and pierces Susan in the chest while she is sleeping on the bus.

Meanwhile, Amelia, who acts as a nanny to Richard and Susan’s two children, decides to cross the Mexican border and take the two children to her son’s wedding, ignoring Richard’s request to watch the children at home.

In Japan, a deaf teenage girl named Chieko is coping with the savage suicide of her mother while managing her disability in Tokyo’s fast-paced society.

It is interesting to note that it is not immediately obvious how the Japanese subplot directly correlates with the grand scheme of things. It is a question that’s not satisfied until the film’s conclusion.

Just when you begin to make sense of the jigsaw puzzle that Babel provides, the movie transitions, keeping your focus and interest teetering on the movie’s whim.

Movies that typically have such a large cast suffer from insufficient character development, which is not the case here. The children from Morocco possess genuine innocence, and you can feel Cheiko’s angst and rage.

Without giving too much of the plot away, just when you think things can’t get any worse in Babel – they progressively do.

And the ending, if anything, is satisfying and soaked with emotion and surprise.

Although Babel tells the tale of a confusing language barrier, the high-standards set by the film are truly universally understood. If Crash was able to pick up some Academy Awards, look for Babel – a vastly superior movie – to do the same.

Contact campus editor Ben Breier at [email protected].


Starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal, Koji Yakusho

Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Stater rating (out of five): ?????