Combustible Celluloid
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With: Cate Blanchett, Brad Pitt, Adriana Barraza, Rinko Kikuchi, Gael Garcia Bernal, Nathan Gamble, Elle Fanning, Koji Yakusho
Written by: Guillermo Arriaga, based on an idea by Guillermo Arriaga, Alejandro González Iñárritu
Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu
MPAA Rating: R for violence, some graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use
Language: French, English, Spanish, Japanese, Berber, Arabic, with English subtitles
Running Time: 142
Date: 05/23/2006

Babel (2006)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Language of Guns

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Writer Guillermo Arriaga and director Alejandro González Inarritu team up once again for another portrait of society's social ills, this one even longer and less enjoyable than Amores Perros or 21 Grams. Skillfully made, but preachy as all get-out, the film crosses four stories.

In the first, a couple of young Moroccan boys are given a rifle to warn coyotes away from their sheep, but they take a few practice shots at a tour bus, wounding an American tourist (Cate Blanchett). Her husband (Brad Pitt) tries to keep her alive, while waiting for American authorities to fly through enemy airspace. Meanwhile, their housekeeper unwisely takes their kids across the border to Mexico for a wedding, where a drunken nephew (Gael Garcia Bernal) gets them into trouble. The fourth story -- connected very tenuously -- has a Japanese businessman (Koji Yakusho) dealing with his emotionally distant, deaf daughter. Why is she deaf? Very simply: movies about deaf people win awards.

Most critics will probably find something profound in this beautiful-looking mishmash, but the profundity exists only in the intent, and not in the execution. See last year's The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, also written by Arriaga, for a better, more understated example of a movie with something to say.

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