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Babel: DVD Review

By John Sunier
This deeply gripping and emotional film is already regarded as one of the finest of last year and a real think piece. The six intersecting stories, presented in a style somewhat reminiscent of Robert Altman's approach, concern six families in contrasting parts of the world. The approach reminded me of the recent Oscar-winner Crash, but this is an even better-constructed film.

Pitt and Blanchett are a married couple on vacation in Morocco, who have two children back in San Diego being cared for by a longtime undocumented Mexican nanny, who foolishly takes them across the border to attend the wedding of a member of her family. A widowed Japanese businessman has a deaf-mute teenage daughter whose wildness - the result of the mother's suicide - is a problem. Three families in a Moroccan desert village are involved: one sells a rifle he was given to another man with two sons to protect the family's goats from jackals. While traveling near the village in a tour bus, the Blanchett character is accidentally struck by a shot fired by the two boys fooling around on the hillside trying to demonstrate how far the rifle can shoot. Another Moroccan family is in the home where the shooting victim is carried to wait for medical care.

Obtaining medical attention for his wife proves a near-impossible task for the husband, and after he contacts the U.S. Embassy the press quickly labels the shooting as a terrorist attack. The other American tourists on the bus are impatient and abandon the couple. The village father and sons are tracked down by Moroccan police. Meanwhile, following the wedding in Mexico, the nanny and the couple's two children are lost in the desert due to the drunkeness of the woman's nephew who is driving them back to San Diego.

The various story lines begin to come together and the tragic destiny that connects most of them relates to the rifle. The primary focus of the film is not violence but communication and the lack of it among people of every sort. It shows how some seemingly separate acts are not really separate at all.

The cinematography and editing work toward giving a documentary sort of reality to the film, which translates well to this widescreen DVD. Even some shots which seem to call for a tripod are hand-held, and this might be the reason. All the actors are superb in their roles and the length of the running time seems difficult to accept when the film does end.

DVD Details:
  • Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael García Bernal
  • Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
  • Studio: Paramount 34598
  • Video: Enhanced for 16:9 widescreen, color
  • Audio: DD 5.1, DD 2.0 surround, French DD 5.1
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Length: 143 minutes
Originally published on Audiophile Audition

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