While vacationing in Morocco, Susan (Cate Blanchett) is shot by a stray bullet. As her husband Richard (Brad Pitt) cares for her, the film also tracks the couple's kids and their caretaker traveling from San Diego to Mexico; the Moroccan family responsible for the shooting; and a deaf-mute Japanese girl, whose father originally owned the gun that fired the bullet that hit Susan. Enough plot for you?
Big question: Can writer Guillermo Arriaga and director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu deliver a complex, chronologically jumbled film as gripping and well-acted as their last collaboration, "21 Grams"?
Catch it: The communication barrier takes on all kinds of importance in "Babel," which presents a striking view of a sad, violent and interrelated world that struggles to connect when it really matters. The film doesn't get cute about the way its characters cross paths; it just shows the randomness of death and the future as an often-tragic force we're always catching up to.
Skip it: If you hate the frenzied atmosphere of dance clubs. A strobe light-heavy scene will have you longing for a pub.
Bottom line: The scenes in Japan feel only tangentially connected to the rest of the film, but every moment of "Babel" keeps you tense, fearing for people suffering from circumstances beyond their control. The movie satisfies not as a high-level look at downward spiraling global conditions but as a story of people thousands of miles apart inextricably intertwined, with the snowball of fate already rolling down the hill.
Bonus: Looking to improve your bartering skills? Trades go much more smoothly when you add to your offer, " and a goat."
Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.
Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu; written by Guillermo Arriaga, from an idea by Arriaga and Inarritu; photographed by Rodrigo Prieto; edited by Stephen Mirrione, Douglas Crise; production designed by Brigitte Broch; music by Gustavo Santaolalla; produced by Inarritu, Jon Kilik, Steve Golin. In Spanish, Japanese, Arabic and English, with English subtitles. A Paramount Vantage release; opens Friday. Running time: 2:23. MPAA Rating: R (for violence, some graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use).
Richard - Brad Pitt
Susan - Cate Blanchett
Anwar - Mohamed Akhzam
Amelia - Adriana Barraza
Santiago - Gael Garcia Bernal
Chieko - Rinko Kikuchi
Yasujiro - Koji YakushoCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times