“And they said, Go to, let us build us a city, and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.”
- The King James Bible
Two boys are guarding goats in the arid mountains of Morocco. Seeking to test the range of their dad's expensive new rifle, they take a pot shot at a bus. And hit a tourist.
So begins a series of events that takes in the boys and their dirt-poor family, an American couple (Kate Blanchett and Brad Pitt) trying to get over the death of a baby, a Mexican nanny (Adriana Barazza) desperate to get across the border to her son’s wedding and a deaf-mute teenage Japanese girl (Rinko Kikuchi). They are linked by that single shot and by common themes.
Director Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu helmed similar films in 21 Grams and Amores Perros, which I have not seen but were heavily praised. This is the third in that ‘trilogy’, a grim and powerful film veined with moments of beauty such as the magnificent desolation of Morocco, the exuberance at a Mexican wedding and the glittering Tokyo cityscape.
Plaudits go to Blanchett and Pitt, who, along with Latino superstar Gael Garcia Bernal, deliver strong performances. It is the lesser-known actors, however, who deliver the most memorable acting - those playing the Moroccan family, Barazza and most heartrending of all, Kikuchi.
With its fractured plot interweaving the lives of large multiracial cast, Babel resembles Crash. However, it’s a considerably better film, as it is not as tiresomely repetitive and simplistic as last year’s “Best Picture”. Indeed, Babel may edge out The Departed, Tsotsi, Little Miss Sunshine, United 93 and The Queen as the best film I’ve seen in the last 12 months.