Babel - (8 of 10) Superb film from Gonzalez-Innaritu, but it's not quite great. Babel tells the story of how the details of a tragedy tie together disparate threads that span the world, showing that even the smallest event has connections thoroughly globalized. A little bit six degress of Kevin Bacon, Babel is deliberately powerful on an emotional level while subtly addressing the gamut of modern social issues: Class, race, childhood/adolescence/adulthood/maturity, disability, family & culture, and the intertwined relationship of the first, second and third world. With none of the crassness or assaulting dialogue of Crash, nevertheless Babel suffers from the same contrived sensibility in addition to seemingly intelligent people occasionally acting in tremendously stupid ways that betrays their earlier characterizations. The most consistent characters are the victims of the tragedy, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, I don't think they had names, they might, but they did a good job of playing Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett as a long time married, super rich, ridiculously successful couple trying to recover from the SIDS death of their youngest, when tragedy strikes them again. The most powerful story, is that of Chieko, a deaf-mute Japanese girl played brilliantly by Rinko Kikuchi in the film's strongest performance. Kikuchi is ruthlessly exploited by the filmmakers and forced to address and overcome Japanese cultural taboos against genital nudity/exposure and the disabled. The character of Chieko, a highschool aged teenager, is struggling with surging hormones and the frustration of being unable to communicate with or date boys. Every male she comes across that is not her father is a potential lover and as she haphazardly moves through the city she spirals further downwards, towards death or perhaps rebirth. Chieko, more than any other character, represents the dichotomy of despair and hope that the film depends upon. Gonzalez-Innaritu uses her story as the strong connecting thread to hold the film together, despite the most tenuous of connections to only one of the stories in the film, thematically her story embodies the soul of the film. Equally powerful is the story of the instigators of the tragedy, a Moroccan family of farmers. Two boys are given a powerful hunting rifle by their father to stop jackals from savaging their flocks of goats. Being boys, and the younger, rebellious brother possessing a personality designed for good aim, causes the boys to be competitive about their own abilities and the rifles abilities. A morbid curiosity and a stupid game lead to the accidental tragedy that motivates the film; it is this event that results in the eventual destruction of this family as they deal with fear, guilt and the forthcoming fall of the hammer of the brutal Moroccan authorities. The youngest brother, a gifted actor, and powerful presence is one of the most compelling figures of the entire film, unfortunatley their story is dropped rather than resolved. rounding out the four stories is that of Amelia, Mike and Debbie, the latter are the children of Pitt and Blanchett, Amelia is their Mexican nanny, who has raised the children since birth since their parents can't be bothered with such. Amelia is trying to get to Mexico for her son's wedding, unfortunately the children's parents have not arranged anyone to watch the children, not even their aunt. after asking her most trusted friends, Amelia takes the children with her, they ride down to Mexico with her nephew, Santiago, a wild 20something, played by Gael Garcia Bernal--someone who bizarrely thinks that instead of telling the truth they should pretend the white bread kids are her actual neices and nephews. They have a good time at the wedding, and after much celebration head back towards San Diego, at the border, Santiago panics and makes a series of bad decisions, followed by Amelia making worse decisions. The resolution of this story is the most powerful tragedy of all and there is little hope offered for the future. Overall Babel is one of the year's strongest films, but it's almost too serious for it's own good, too convinced of it's own importance--and that, more than anything is what holds Babel back from repeat viewings or achieving true cinematic greatness, it is a work of the head more than of the heart, the passion feels as much like frustration and anger than the passion of telling a superb story, nevertheless, this is one of the year's best films.