David Denby on 'Babel' | The Moviegoer

David Denby on 'Babel'

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Not much love for the latest film from the guys behind Amores Perros and 21 Grams.

Arriaga and Iñárritu are trying to create potent fictions by harping on pain and misunderstanding. But why? Serendipity is every bit as likely as calamity. Happy chains of the miraculous exist in movie history—they are called screwball comedies, which is not a genre these filmmakers are likely to take up soon. Arriaga and Iñárritu, confusing sheer dread with dramatic tension, make us suffer, but in that case we had better learn something new, and I’m not sure there’s much to be learned from watching Cate Blanchett scream as she’s sewn up by a Moroccan village doctor except for the bourgeois lesson that wealthy Westerners should think twice before leaving the friendly confines of a comfortable hotel. It remains to be said that Brad Pitt gives a good performance as the distraught husband; the trials of the girl in Tokyo (Rinko Kikuchi), desperate for the embrace of a man, are carried off with the utmost boldness, delicacy, and understanding; and the entire movie looks magnificent—the neon nightscapes in Japan and the brownish mountain wastes of Morocco, too. Iñárritu has enough talent to shake up conventional moviemaking. But he still hasn’t figured out how to use it.

Here's the full review.


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