I have had a few requests recently to review another film which I despise. Some people who read my Into The Woods review apparently wished to know my thoughts on other such films. I suppose I know a handful of big-budget, renowned films which I would call the worst to disgrace the medium. This would be another example. I foresee some readers wondering why I would choose Babel, a film once nominated for a Best Picture academy award. I hope that by the time I am finished writing this, precious and perplexed person, you will understand. After all, this will be a very long review.
Admittedly, I had planned to watch this film again before reviewing it, in the interest of fairness. However, I soon realized that, in order to bear such unfaltering defilement of my mind once more, I would require an amount of alcohol that would likely render the review pointless and myself deceased. Therefore, the basis of the review shall be my memory of the film, which I expect to be quite accurate considering how it is etched into my brain as one might have a worded tattoo which exhibits a prominent spelling error. That is, the mistake is clear and inescapable.
I should note that I adore some of Alejandro Inarritu’s later films (especially Birdman) and I now harbor no bias against him. I suppose he may have learned from his mistakes. I will spoil some things, but nobody should ever see this movie again under any circumstances (including threats of death and dismemberment) so I implore my readers to care not for the details of such an atrocity.
Now, Babel is a film which is comprised of four stories covering many people in different countries. None of the characters in this film have any real development or narrative, due to the size of the cast and the ineptitude of all involved in the film’s creation, with the possible exception of the cameraman. I feel a deep sense of pity for whoever had such a harrowing duty. I try to avoid using movie posters as images for my reviews because I would rather pick a picture I appreciate or one which represents the film well. I found an image with only Brad Pitt in it because I want to focus on the fact that he is the only actor in this film who is really trying. On a side note, this is probably the only film with Brad Pitt that is terrible. Also, due to the nature of Babel and the way it is presented, it is as if there were 4 short movies that became loosely connected through the contrived machinations of a blatherskite.
Anyway, there is a couple in a middle-eastern country, it doesn’t matter which one, it’s a place with sand and danger (dangerous sand?). One of those places with lots of stuff that’s coarse and gets everywhere. Most Hollywood films set in a middle eastern country simply show you sand and danger, so that’s what it is. Now, there’s a couple in the Desert of Peril and they are on some sort of tour bus. They seem unhappy together. That sums up both their characters nicely. Later the woman is shot, because some boys were playing with a gun nearby and decided to shoot at the bus. I will never understand what the film was going for with these boys, because they are obviously not young enough to lack the notion that you should not shoot guns at people. If Inarritu wanted people to pity the kids or see them as innocent, it failed. So, this woman is shot, and the other people on the bus do not care, and they end up being left in a downtrodden village with minimal medical care. Anybody who has seen The Walking Dead’s second season might remember several scenes with a character named Carl and understand how overlong, tedious, and melodramatic this is made to be. Yes, she was shot and she is in pain. I understand that. No, I do not need that many screams. Eventually a helicopter takes them to a hospital. That’s their entire story, essentially. It could have been a 10 minute short film, but this is Babel, where everything has to have much more to it.
Now, in the second of the 4 movies, the boys in Sandy Danger were labeled as terrorists, which seems accurate. Their dad herds goats because it is the Country of Beige Dirt that Hurts People so he has goats and also a rifle. Apparently he gave them the rifle. This does not matter for the rest of the story or any of the characters, but also, this is Babel, wherein nothing matters and everything is horrible. So, the boys are sad because they are terrorists. The government is looking for them. I think they hid the gun somewhere. They talk to their dad and for some reason they run away and also shoot cops. I think one of the kids died. I believe Inarritu wanted to show some depth or controversy for these characters, but instead, I felt as if they should have been captured and tried for their crimes.
Okay, so, let’s call the third one the Mexican Babysitter (not a rock band name, sadly) film. You see, the couple who are back in the Trouble Desert nation have children, and they are in California, but they are also in the movie. The babysitter wants to attend her son’s wedding, I think. It could have been her brother. Well, the wedding is in Mexico, but she and the kids are in San Diego. So, the babysitter finds out the couple are not coming back as planned, or something like that, but she wants to go to the wedding. She also needs to tend to their kids so they do not die, as they are very young. So, instead of finding some other help or solution with some form of logic, the babysitter decided to take the small children out to the border and try to go to the wedding in Mexico with them. Somehow this worked out okay at first, but after the wedding she decides to go back to San Diego as quickly as possible with the kids and a relative of hers. The guy is an imbecile, so there are problems, and somehow the babysitter and the kids end up stranded in the desert in Mexico overnight. I distinctly recall this scene disturbing me profoundly, as the babysitter continued to make unrealistic and horrendous decisions. The kids are fine and the babysitter was an illegal immigrant so she is deported. I think the viewer is also supposed to pity the babysitter here, but all I feel is pity for the child actors who may now be adults who are aware that they participated in this amalgamation of nonsense.
Well, the final and worst film in this 4 film movie is set in Japan. Do you remember the boys from the Big Hazardous Beach Where There Is No Water Only Sand? Well apparently their dad, who I mentioned before, was given the gun by a Japanese man. Okay, that is fine, but now we have to focus on that Japanese man’s daughter apparently. You see, the daughter is a deaf, lonely teen who is deaf and also she cannot hear. This girl is sad and makes lots of bad decisions involving boys and drugs, and her ears don’t work. Apparently we had to see several scenes involving this girl being upset and deaf. I’m hammering this home so much because the film demands that you sympathize with this girl by forcing her lack of hearing into perspective in every scene. The script probably just named her character ‘deaf teen’ because that’s all she really is. Her mother killed herself but she lies to the police about how it happened for some reason. Also, she tries to seduce a cop because we needed a nude woman scene in the movie apparently. Does that just check another box so this film has all of the things? I suspect as much. So, the police question her dad, even though he simply gave the gun to a guy who sold that gun to a guy who gave that gun to his kids who shot at a bus. That’s quite far removed from the actual incident. Apparently that can be overlooked too, somehow. Well, they are sad and the father and daughter meet at home and cry together, I guess.
So, Babel is a film which shows you many characters, most of whom are very sad, but it does not mean anything. Essentially, most of what this movie shows you would be tertiary details in a better film. Interconnection works well as a nice twist or as a driving motivation for characters in many stories. However, Babel acts as if something must be connected to everything so it takes one thing and turns it into four things.
I think Babel is treated as if it is a clever and unique movie, but the characters are so tangentially connected, often by happenstance, that everything in the film seems pointless. That is why I see it as 4 movies smashed together, stacked in a car crusher. If you focus on the story of the tourist couple, none of the other stories actually affect that one. None of the events of the film directly seem to pertain to the other events in other places. Yes, the boys shoot the bus, but the rest of the scenes with the boys do not relate to the rest of the scenes with the couple. Therefore, it comes across as a random mess. There is no point to any of it. I cannot express my revilement of this film enough. The characters constantly make absurd and unrealistic decisions, the movie flips between unrelated occurrences so persistently that despite an unbelievably long run-time there is barely any character development. In theory the idea could have worked better as a long television series, but I probably still would not want to watch it, because I think that on a fundamental level, the idea was terrible. I’m convinced now that this film is one which resonates emotionally with audiences so much that they do not consider logic or realism. Apparently, people care about these characters enough that they are not bored and angry. This film, just as Into the Woods had as well, insulted my intelligence. Babel treats the viewer as a machine built only to care about sad people and ignore all else. Most of the music is just this awful repetitively used guitar track that plays over otherwise silent scenes at least 4 or 5 times in the film, and you see characters looking sad and being in desperate situations, but they’re just horrible and completely incapable of eliciting empathy with their plights. This is like watching a documentary on Ted Bundy and just being expected to really be a big fan of that nice Ted Bundy guy, because clearly he’s just misunderstood or maybe not ‘that’ bad. It’s exhausting. Everything in the movie falls flat, and nothing delivers on the barest minimum of quality standards except the cinematography. Yet, even something that seems competently filmed can be a fiery chasm of wasted time and energy.
Babel is Egregious. This film is abhorrent and relentless in its attempts at conveying messages based on nonsense and cruelty. I cannot stand this film. I cannot bear it when people tell me it is a good movie. I want to confront the academy voters of 2007, one by one, and demand to know how much they were bribed to pretend this film is passable. The production values are high and the actors are famous but Babel is far more poorly made than the likes of The Room or Birdemic. That’s not ironic or sarcastic. I mean this very seriously. If I were to teach people about good storytelling or writing, I would highlight this film as an example of what must never be done.
Update: I actually watched it again. Yes, I did need alcohol. Yes, I think I am okay. I changed the Acting rating because some of them really did try, but wow was I wrong about the cinematography. It’s shot like an action movie. Way too fast, all over the place, totally pointless crap. Also, I somehow forgot a lot of the horrific sexual harrassment the japanese deaf girl enacts upon various men in the film. It’s a pretty persistent issue and she never really gets punished for it. Yet the film seems to want me to sympathize anyway. Sickening.
So, my rating has not improved. This will always be one of the worst films ever made.