Wednesday, 26 March 2014

"Babel" on BLU RAY – A Review Of The 2006 Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu Film

Here is a link to Amazon UK to get this BLU RAY at the best price:

"…Three Kilometres…"

On a desolate Moroccan mountainside impoverished young brothers Ahmed and Yussef are testing out their exciting new manly acquisition - a Winchester M70 Rifle their father bought from a local guide Hassan for 500 Dirhams and a goat. They start out innocently enough (pot shots at Jackals) but sibling rivalry kicks in as they test Hassan’s claims that the gun is so good - the bullets can travel up to 3 kilometres. Yussef (the younger of the two) is the better marksman - so in jest he takes aims at a long tourist bus trundling up a dirt road far below. They laugh as nothing seemingly happens. But then the bus pulls in – screaming voices inside – they’re English-speaking tourists. Ahmed and Yussef look at each other and run.

Mr. Wataya proudly watches his deaf Japanese teenage daughter Chieko play fiercely competitive Volleyball with other mutes in a privileged Tokyo school gym (fabulous turns by Koji Yakusho of the original "Shall We Dance" and Rinko Kikuchi of "Pacific Rim"). Chieko is beautiful but is mentally tortured by the suicide of her mother only a year earlier and a subsequently difficult relationship with her father. But more obsessive than that is her burgeoning sexuality that no cool J-POP Japanese boy seems to want because of her language disability. She begins to go extreme lengths to get attention in shopping malls and even with her dentist as she lays prostate on his chair…

Amelia is a big-hearted middle-aged Mexican nanny (a stunning Adrianna Barraza) taking good care of two beautiful white children is Los Angeles while their warring parents Richard and Susan Jones (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett) are holidaying in Morocco. But Amelia gets a phone call from Richard that his wife Susan has been shot and they’re holed up in a small town called Tazarine waiting for an American helicopter to get them out. Amelia will therefore have to cancel going to her son’s wedding that day in Mexico to look after the kids. But Amelia figures it will be ok (what can go wrong) and takes the young Debbie and Mike (Elle Fanning and Nathan Gamble) and her son Santiago (Gael Garcia Bernal) across the border in his beat-up car. But things go badly wrong. And on it goes to a honourable Japanese cop who works out where the Rifle originated…

Employing the same creative team he worked with on the equally compelling  "Amores Perros" (2000) and "21 Grams" (2004) (see review) – Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu once again uses the disjointed different-people different-places storytelling of Guillermo Arriaga (Writer) and the hugely emotive Music of Gustavo Santaolalla to make the stunning "Babel" (2006). But this is an even more accomplished round-the-world parable that the two that went before.

Ok - the idea that unbeknown to them two Moroccan children could set in motion a chain of events that will affect people in Tokyo, Mexico and the USA is perhaps stretching credibility a tad – but Inarritu wants us to see that we are all connected and that 'pain is universal' whether you’re rich or poor. He also clearly believes that kindness and faith are not merely rationed to the West. In fact people with nothing show more grace than panicking affluent tourists greedy for their own safety do - while one of their own lies bleeding to death in a dust hovel with a bullet in her neck.

But what gives "Babel" its extraordinary humanity and personal punch are the faces you don’t recognize and the worlds you’re allowed to peer in on – often not sexy nor glamorous - but full of family and heart nonetheless. There is an old lady who stays with Cate Blanchett’s Susan as she writhes in pain – her wizened sunken-sockets life-long-struggle face is incredible. Mohamed Akhzam as the desperate father trying to keep his kids from being killed by trigger-happy police as the 'American Killed By Terrorists' storyline filling the news gets out of hand. The speech-challenged teenage girls in Tokyo who just want to be cool and liked but get hurt by the cruelty of giggling boys in Games Arcades. Its amazing around-the-world stuff…

After the grain-filled gritty realism of "21 Grams" on the new format – it’s fabulous to see that "Babel" is a proper looker on BLU RAY and a quantum leap ahead in terms of visuals. Defaulted to 1.85:1 aspect  - it fills the full screen and the effect is powerful. Dust, dirt and goatherds on the one hand with the neon blitz of downtown Tokyo on the other – all looking fabulous. The Audio is in both English and French 5.1 Dolby Digital with Subtitles in English, English for the Hard Of Hearing, French and Spanish. But apart from a Theatrical Trailer and some Previews – a huge disappointment is the complete lack of Extras when this film so cried out for them.

“Babel” broke down doors in terms of showing us the world in all its complex but similar humanity. And while it may not all tie up perfectly at the end (like life) - it was hailed in certain circles as 'a genuine masterpiece'.

I for one would agree wholeheartedly…

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