November 06, 2006 12:00 PM

Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael García Bernal



During the 1992 Los Angeles riots, beating victim Rodney King uttered a famous plea: “Can we all get along?” That would be the perfect coda to Babel, a sprawling drama that circles the globe, tracking characters desperately trying to make themselves understood in the seething cacophony of a post-9/11 world.

There’s an American tourist (Pitt) in Morocco frantically trying to transcend a language barrier to get medical aid for his injured wife (Blanchett), a Moroccan boy whose life is turned upside down after an innocent game goes awry, a San Diego nanny (Adriana Barraza) trying to get to her son’s wedding in Mexico, and a deaf Tokyo teenager (Rinko Kikuchi) who acts out sexually after her mother’s death. Slowly, the connections between these disparate individuals become apparent. Babel‘s complex structure and deep humanistic impulse will be familiar to fans—and I’m one—of earlier films by director Alejandro González Iñárritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga (21 Grams). Too familiar. Although beautifully acted, Babel in many ways is the same film all over again—just boasting a bigger budget, brighter stars and greater geographic reach. (R)

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