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Wednesday November 15, 2006 8:28 pm

Babel Review: ‘Crash 2: Now It’s Global…and Longer…and Boring’

Babel poster

EDIT: Check out FilmCrunch’s Babel Video Review.

This film follows four interconnected stories – an American couple vacationing in Morocco, a poor Moroccan family, a young deaf girl growing up in Japan, and a middle-aged Mexican woman living illegally in the United States.  We get to see how these stories affect each other in otherwise inconspicuous ways and watch each person as they experience various forms of predjudice.  Babel stars Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, and Gael Garcia Bernal, and is directed and written by the duo behind Amores Perros and 21 Grams, Alejandro Gonzales Inarittu and Guillermo Arriaga, respectively.  Although this film says a lot about the current sociopolitical climate inherent in our world today, it does little else but flimsily connect four desolate situations.

As we were leaving the theater, a friend of mine turned to me and jokingly said, “I get it!  The moral is: don’t give guns to Arabs, don’t trust Mexicans, and Japanese people are weird.”  Of course, since he was kidding, this was quite funny.  But what he said also pinpointed some of the generalizations this film attempts to explore and break down.

What I liked about this film (and there wasn’t too much) was the way it framed politically our current global inclination – countries, specifically their governments (including the US), have adopted a “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality when it comes to anything out of the ordinary.  Even worse, when questions finally are asked, they are often based on pre-conceived assumptions about the people involved or their intentions.  This was portrayed very well in the film.

In general, however, I don’t think this film was conceived for entertainment purposes.  I never felt like what I was watching translated well on the screen; it wasn’t put together in a way that was accessible to the average viewing audience.  In Inarittu’s past films, typified by the same multi-faceted plot, the stories have come together in a very heavy way: the lives involved have a direct, often staggering influence on each other.  Babel tries to string together four stories – one of which I was completely uninterested in because of it’s near total detachment from the other three – which seem to hardly affect one another at all.  The only discernable impact one has on another is the near instant change in policy and assumption one act of violence has on the entire world, which, again, doesn’t come across well on the screen.  It certainly lacked the intensity portrayed in the trailer, that’s for sure.

Additionally, the stories are so damn sad that you long for a resolution anywhere, no matter how poor.  The only moments, and I mean moments, anyone on screen is happy, you find yourself waiting for the inevitable downfall.  It was 2 hours and 45 minutes of my life devoted to total and complete depression – not something I enjoyed.  If that is the intention, the film will be a resounding success, but I think I just needed more backstory from the characters: each person’s past unravels quite slowly, while important events are taking place that would’ve invoked a deeper resonance with me.  Expanding any one storyline may have helped, but there just wasn’t enough time.

The final scene is an insult.  I don’t want to give too much away, but the writer and director spend the entire film submerged in tragedy, and just when you expect the final straw, they pull back and do something unexpected.  Needless to say, I felt controlled and manipulated, as if they were saying, “ha! We were leading you in one direction the entire time, and now we’re pulling the rug out!  Look for meaning!”

I really do understand the intention here, but this film was just Crash without the in-your-face confrontation.  You might have a better time watching your hamster run on his wheel.  But if a piece of sawdust from the hamster cage happens to land in your goldfish tank, and the goldfish splashes some water onto your cat, walk away and don’t look back.  Too obscure?  Yep, just like Babel.
 

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Comments:

You make some good points, TG.  If the film does one thing, it’s getting people to talk, to discuss and maybe someday resolve these issues.

Thanks for the comments.

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