Critics Consensus

In Babel, there are no villains, only victims of fate and circumstance. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu weaves four of their woeful stories into this mature and multidimensional film.



Total Count: 199


Audience Score

User Ratings: 377,185
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Movie Info

The tragic aftermath of human carelessness travels around the world in this multi-narrative drama from filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu. Richard (Brad Pitt) and Susan (Cate Blanchett) are a couple from the United States who have traveled to Morocco in Northern Africa on a vacation after the death of one of their children has sent Susan into a deep depression. Richard and Susan's other two children have been left in the care of Amelia (Adriana Barraza), their housekeeper. Amelia is originally from Mexico, and her oldest son is getting married in Tijuana. Unable to find someone who can watch the kids, or to obtain permission to take the day off, Amelia takes the children with her as she travels across the border for the celebration. Around the same time, in Morocco a poor farmer buys a hunting rifle, and he gives it to his sons to scare off the predatory animals that have been thinning out their goat herd. The boys decide to test the weapon's range by shooting at a bus far away; the shot hits Susan in the shoulder, and soon she's bleeding severely, while police are convinced the attack is the work of terrorists. In Japan, Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi) is a teenage deaf-mute whose mother recently committed suicide. This despairing, confused girl experiences such rage and frustration that she causes her volleyball team to lose a match, and later yanks her underwear off and begins exposing herself to boys in a crowded restaurant. Chieko's father then struggles to reach past the emotional distance which separates him and his daughter. Babel earned Alejandro González Iñárritu the prize for Best Director at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi


News & Interviews for Babel

Critic Reviews for Babel

All Critics (199) | Top Critics (51) | Fresh (137) | Rotten (62)

  • Alejandro González Iñárritu's latest sprawling, dispersed art-film blockbuster prompts a question: Does he just not know how to tell a story?

    Feb 3, 2007 | Rating: 2/6 | Full Review…

    Mark Holcomb

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Well acted and handsomely photographed, but still extraordinarily overpraised and overblown, a middlebrow piece of near-nonsense: the kind of self-conscious arthouse cinema that is custom-tailored and machine-tooled for the dinner-party demographic.

    Jan 20, 2007 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • Babel can be unnecessarily convoluted, ultimately though it's the stark simplicity of the dilemmas faced by each character that hits home, wherever that may be.

    Jan 16, 2007 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • If misery is your pornography, Babel is your holy grail.

    Jan 16, 2007 | Full Review…

    Dave Calhoun

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • It's a great film made with style and heart and hope, a cautionary parable and an almost certain Oscar contender.

    Nov 10, 2006 | Rating: 5/5
  • The experience of watching Babel is undeniably riveting: Even if the film doesn't really lead anywhere, you still can't take your eyes off it.

    Nov 10, 2006 | Rating: 3/4

Audience Reviews for Babel

  • Sep 28, 2015
    Babel is a mixed bag.While it does not feel very long, its main defect is its length. A shorter movie with tighter focus would have had a greater dramatic impact without having to sacrifice its social message. The colonialist attitudes killed any sympathy for the central characters. But overall, it is still engaging and still worth seeing.
    Robert B Super Reviewer
  • Dec 12, 2013
    Intertwining stories and lives across multiple countries and cultures, "Babel" covers its bases on almost every type of person and ethnicity that you could think of while weaving together a complex tale to which they all connect. Whether its two harmless young boys in Morocco who are given a rifle to watch over sheep, only to accidentally shoot a white tourist (Cate Blanchett) who is traveling with her husband (Brad Pitt), or a Hispanic nanny that takes the two kids that she watches over to Mexico for a wedding, only to lose them in the desert, or a deaf Japanese girl who seeks sexual solace following the suicide of her mother, all of these small little tales tell a much larger story of human connection and raw emotions. What director Alejandro González Iñárritu achieves so well is exact human reaction, projecting human emotions to perfection without stooping to blatant stereotypes or expectations. Nothing is ever telegraphed in the film, with many of the conclusions of the film catching the viewer by complete blind side. The key performances from this assemble come from lead Brad Pitt, who delivers the high caliber turn they we know and love him for, as he struggles to hold himself together as his wife is dying by his side. Also, Adriana Barraza as the nanny gives a hugely refreshing turn, especially in her heightened emotion states while fleeing the border police and searching for the lost children. Even young Boubker Ait El Caid, a local from Morocco delivers a striking performance as the young boy with the gun, with much more on his mind than naked girls and relieving himself after he injures an innocent woman. Almost two and a half hours long, "Babel" grabs your attention with its intricate storytelling and heightened dramatic suspense, continuing the trend of films like "Crash" that bring together well-known ensemble casts and divvies them up into a wide open world that brings to cinematic life the notion that it's a small world.
    Christopher H Super Reviewer
  • Aug 14, 2012
    This film is a masterpiece. I was completely blown away by the well interwoven plot, the characters and their persnal fates. The picture is shot in the style of Steven Soderburgh's Traffic and even it's the structure is similar(Stephen Mirrione who else edited Traffic co-edited with Douglas Crise work for Babel). The performaces is tremendous but the one that stuck out the most imo is from Adriana Barraza. Her performance is captivating and mezmerising from beginning to end. The ending of the picture hits on an emotional level and it works. The plot may contains spoilers **** Morocco In a remote desert location in southern Morocco, Abdullah, a goatherder, buys a high-powered .270 Winchester M70 rifle and a box of ammunition from his neighbor Hassan Ibrahim to shoot the jackals that have been preying on his goats. Abdullah gives the rifle to his two young sons, Yussef and Ahmed (played by local non-professional actors Boubker Ait El Caid and Said Tarchini), and sends them out to tend the herd. The film has already established that there is a degree of competitiveness between the two brothers. The older is critical of the younger for spying on his sister while she changes her clothes (the film shows that she is aware of his presence). Competing between themselves and doubtful of the rifle's purported three-kilometer range, they decide to test it out, aiming first at rocks, a moving car on a highway below, and then at a bus carrying Western tourists on the same highway traveling in the opposite direction to the car. Yussef's bullet hits the bus, critically wounding Susan Jones (Cate Blanchett), an American woman from San Diego who is traveling with her husband Richard Jones (Brad Pitt) on vacation. The two boys realize what has happened and flee the scene, hiding the rifle in the hills that night. Glimpses of television news programs reveal that the US government holds the shooting to be a terrorist act and is pressuring the Moroccan government to apprehend the culprits. Having traced the rifle back to Hassan, the Moroccan police descend quickly on his house and roughly question him and his wife until they reveal that the rifle was given to him by a Japanese man, and then sold to Abdullah. The two boys see the police on the road and confess to their father what they have done. (They believe at the time that the American woman has died of her wounds.) The three flee from their house, retrieving the rifle as they go. The police corner them on the rocky slope of a hill and open fire. After his brother is hit in the leg, Yussef returns fire, striking one police officer in the shoulder. The police continue shooting, eventually hitting Ahmed in the back, possibly fatally injuring him. As his father rages with grief, Yussef eventually surrenders and confesses to all the crimes, begging clemency for his family and medical assistance for his brother. The police take him into custody. The family's fate is unresolved. The movie's first plot is interspersed with scenes of Richard and Susan. They came on vacation in Morocco to get away from things and mend their own marital woes. The death of their infant third child to SIDS has strained their marriage significantly as they struggle to communicate their frustration, guilt, and blame. When Susan is shot on the tour bus, Richard orders the bus driver to the nearest village with a doctor (the village is named Tazarine in the film). There a local veterinarian sews up the wound to stem the loss of blood. The other tourists wait for some time, but they eventually demand to leave, fearing the heat and worried that they may be the target of further attacks. Since Susan cannot travel by bus in her condition, Richard threatens the tour group to wait for the ambulance, which never arrives, and eventually the bus leaves without them while Richard is on the phone. The couple remains behind with the bus's tour guide, Anwar, still waiting for transport to a hospital (having contacted the US embassy using the village's only phone). Political issues between the US and Morocco prevent quick help, but a helicopter comes at last. After five days in the hospital, Susan recovers and is sent home. Japan Simultaneously, the movie tells the story of Chieko Wataya (Rinko Kikuchi), a rebellious, deaf Japanese teenage girl, traumatized by the recent suicide of her mother. She is bitter towards her father, Yasujiro Wataya (Kōji Yakusho) and boys her age, and is sexually frustrated. She starts exhibiting sexually provocative behavior, partly in response to dismissive comments from a member of her volleyball team. While out with friends, Chieko finds a teenage boy attractive, and following an unsuccessful attempt at socialising, takes off her panties and exposes herself in an act combining flirtation and contempt. Chieko eventually encounters two police detectives who question her about her father. She finds one of the detectives, Kenji Mamiya (Satoshi Nikaido), attractive. She invites Mamiya back to the apartment she shares with her father. Wrongly supposing that the detectives are investigating her father's involvement in her mother's suicide, she explains to Mamiya that her father was asleep when her mother jumped off the balcony and that she witnessed this herself. It turns out the detectives are, in fact, investigating a hunting trip Yasujiro took in Morocco. Yasujiro is an avid hunter and during a trip in Morocco he gave his rifle, as a gift, to his very skilled hunting guide, Hassan, who at the beginning of the film sold the rifle to Abdullah. Soon after learning this, Chieko reveals her real motive in inviting Mamiya to her home. She approaches him nude and attempts to seduce him. He resists her approaches but comforts her as she bursts into tears. Before he leaves, Chieko writes him a note, indicating that she does not want him to read it until he is gone. Leaving, the detective crosses paths with Yasujiro and explains the situation with the rifle. Yasujiro replies that he did indeed give it as a gift; there was no black market involvement. About to depart, Mamiya offers condolences for the wife's suicide. Yasujiro, though, is confused by the mention of a balcony and angrily replies that "My wife shot herself in the head. Chieko was the first to find the body. I've explained this to the police many times." Chieko is leaning on the balcony (still nude) when her father enters the apartment. After leaving, the detective stops at a bar to read Chieko's note. Within the film, the note's contents are never revealed. United States/Mexico A third subplot takes place in the Americas where Richard and Susan's Mexican nanny, Amelia (Adriana Barraza) tends their twin children in their California home while they are in Morocco. When Richard and Susan are detained because of Susan's injury, Amelia is forced to take care of the children longer than planned and becomes worried that she will miss her son's wedding. Unable to secure any other help to care for them, she calls Richard for advice, who impatiently tells her to cancel the wedding. Without his permission Amelia decides to take the children with her to the wedding in a rural community near Tijuana, Mexico, rather than miss it. Her nephew Santiago (Gael García Bernal) offers to take her and the twins to the wedding. They cross the border uneventfully and the children are soon confronted by the Mexican culture and street scene. The revelry of the wedding extends well into the evening, but rather than staying the night in Mexico with the children, Amelia decides to drive back to the States with Santiago. He has been drinking heavily and the border guards become suspicious of his behavior and over the American children in the car. Amelia has passports for all four travelers, but no letter of consent from the children's parents allowing her to take them out of the United States. Intoxicated, Santiago trespasses the border. He soon abandons Amelia and the children in the desert, attempting to lead off the police (his final fate is not revealed). Stranded without food and water, Amelia and the children are forced to spend the night in the desert. Realizing that they will all die if she cannot get help, Amelia leaves the children behind to find someone, ordering them not to move. She eventually finds a U.S. Border Patrol officer. After placing Amelia under arrest, she and the officer travel back to where she had left the children, but they are not there. Amelia is taken back to a Border Patrol station, where she is eventually informed that the children have been found and that Richard, while very furious and outraged, has agreed not to press charges. However, she must be deported from the US where she has been working illegally. Her protests that she had been in the US for 16 years and has looked after the children (whom she refers to as "her children") for the duration of their lives do not secure lenient treatment. Near the end of the movie, the audience sees her meeting her son on the Mexican side of the Tijuana crossing, still in the red dress she wore for the wedding, now torn and dirty from her night in the desert. At the end of the movie, a phone conversation between Amelia and Richard is repeated from Richard's end of the phone. This is the original phone call at the beginning of Amelia's story. In this conversation it can be heard that he is allowing Amelia to go to her son's wedding because Susan's sister will be able to watch the twins. It is not until the next morning on another phone call they learn that Susan's sister cannot take care of them and thus Amelia is forced to take the children with her.
    Brian R Super Reviewer
  • May 27, 2012
    The connecting plot point between all the stories felt a little unnatural, but an enticing film with interesting themes.
    Dillon L Super Reviewer

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