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Babel

Year: 2006
Production Co: Anonymous Content
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Producer: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Writer: Alejandro González Iñárritu/Guillermo Arriaga
Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal
Inarritu's work has become gradually more prestigious. He employs the same documentary realism here as he has in all his films to tell a tale of lives connecting by tenuous, crisscrossing lines across time and space.

The irony with such realistic performances and such a stark set up is that the more successful the approach is, the more it fails to engage you emotionally. All the hushed tones, stern voices and neck-break cuts between stories leave you feeling a little cold and distant from the material.

There's also the question to be asked, and though it's sacrilege to ask it about directors like Inarritu (together with Altman, Shyamalan and Woody Allen), it's this; is this the only kind of film he can do? Sure, he's good at this sort of thing, but in a very tangible sense it's the cinematic equivalent of eating at McDonalds because you know exactly what you're going to get and what it's going to taste like.

The story and characters might be different, but the storytelling technique is almost a brand in itself, and perhaps the mark of a true directorial genius is one who adopts to a totally new style or genre.

If you like Inarritu's work however, he does it well here. The gun is the MacGuffin; given by a Japanese businessman to a North African hunter's guide who then sells it to a poor farming family. The kids take it out one day, daring each other to even more dangerous stunts, until one scores a direct hit through the window of a distant tourist bus, hitting the wife of a very strained marriage (Blanchett).

While her husband (Pitt) tries desperately to rustle up medical help for his critically hurt wife in a flyspeck village with no facilities, he's unaware his Mexican housekeeper can't reach him either. She wants to go to her son's wedding across the border but can't get hold of their parents to make alternative arrangements so she decides to take the kids with her, hoping she doesn't get too many questions on the way back.

Her hotheaded nephew (Bernal) drives them, and when the border authorities do ask questions, he hightails it, stranding them in the desert while he escapes, leaving her to stumble through the desert all night until she's found, then trying to lead the authorities to the lost kids before they die of thirst.

The most tenuous link is the Japanese businessman's hearing-impaired daughter, trying to grow up in the neo-glitz of Tokyo and not be seen by her peers as a freak by her attempts to connect to people in completely inappropriate ways.

The latter story almost belongs in a different movie, without nearly the powerful ties that bind as Inarritu and his reguler screenwriter Arriga crafted for 21 Grams, and the whole things feels a little light-weight because of it's emotional coldness.

It also resulted in a falling out between the Arriga/Inarritu team, so it might be the last film we see from the distinctive faux-Tarantino, south of the border dramatic brand.

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