According to the stories of the Bible, the Tower of Babel was a tower built by a united humanity to reach into the heavens. Yet they were only seeking to make a name for themselves instead of worshipping the God who created them. Because of this open defiance, God stopped their efforts by confusing languages so that no man could understand another. As a result, they could no longer communicate and work was halted. The builders were then scattered to different corners of the Earth. This story is used to explain the existence of many different languages and races. The tower of Babel was never finished.
– via

The name of the movie is thus Babel. A movie that Film Critic at the New Yorker, David Denby didn’t like.

I liked the trailer and was disappointed to learn that the New Yorker hasn’t approved this movie. and if on movie db, you see a 3 star next to the title. To see or not to see this movie?

My dilemma was easily solved, because ZM was eager to see it. I told him the review wasn’t great. The New Yorker apparently doesn’t have the same convincing grip on ZM as it did on me. So off we went, on this Friday evening. It is also our excuse to check out the new theatre in the Bloomingdale mall, the new Century Theatre, half a block away from Metreon.

I’m so glad I went.

I really liked the movie.

The director artfully captured the authenticity of these three places: Morocco, Tokyo, and Mexico (or rather the border of US and Mexico). There was a strong sense of place for each location. The acting was excellent (except Cate Blanchett. Her superb acting had no where to go. That was a waste. Anyone can play a neurotic American tourist, not sure why he picked Cate).

The story tied together nicely, too. Even though the story lines were so diverse, and all happened in such different locations in today’s world. I didn’t feel the movie being too long. It was a good two and half hours. I enjoyed every minute of it.

It is amazing he could hold audiences attention while spinning the globe, and keep us interested in every story, with such drastic difference of their backgrounds, from the dusty poverty struck rural villages of Morocco, to the ultra modern metropolitan of Tokyo, to the racial tension in Mexican border. I’m thoroughly amazed at the director’s ease, gliding from scene to scene, without breaking our interests.

A master who truly understands his craft.

It is a feast to the eyes.

The undercurrent of the theme identified by the trailer: “the confusion of speeches. a.k.a. Babel” quietly surfaces among this “babel” from time to time, with the help of some beautiful music. Like how Chieko(the deaf girl) was in a disco, how Brad Pitt trying to make himself understood among the villagers, how Amela, the illegal Mexican nanny trying to explain to the border control why she had the kids…

then there is the big fuss about America versus Morocco, the terrorist link, the diplomatic tension. The stopping of the ambulance, the innocent kids with a rifle.

There was also the humour. Don’t know what David Derby’s problem is. Maybe it is not as a cliche? Not as predictable? I didn’t mind the fatalism in the movie. I didn’t mind the randomness of the events. How close things are to catastrope, and all for nothing. No grand scheme here. But isn’t that what the world is? The real life?

The movie captured life so well. Iñárritu didn’t try to polish it up, it is no MTV, nothing like Syriana, which had flashy montage and the fast drum beat of modern high drama. This movie has all the details of daily life of the people in their land.


David Denby said:

… (Alejandro González Iñárritu) he creates savagely beautiful and heartbreaking images; he gets fearless performances out of his actors; he edits with the sharpest razor in any computer in Hollywood; and he abuses his audience with a humorless fatalism and a piling up of calamities that borders on the ludicrous.

Funny that I didn’t feel fatalism, nor did i think anything there is ludicrous. I certainly didn’t feel abused, and i find plenty of humour in the movie. Things illustrated in the movie could be happening right now around the world. David Denby probably needs to get out more. :p