In preparation for the Academy Awards, I saw Babel this weekend. I liked it quite a bit.
Like Crash I felt that some of the dark comedic parts were missed by the audience, but the plot was interesting and I loved a number of the performances. I thought that Adriana Barraza was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. And I've long been in love with Gael Garcia Bernal, so while I wasn't totally enamoured with his role, it was great to see them interact.
Gael Garcia Bernal had one of the best lines in the movies. The two blond children are in the backseat on their way to Mexico with their caretaker, when the little boy pipes up, "... my Dad says Mexico is dangerous." Gael Garcia Bernal's character turn around and menacingly says, "Yes, it's full of Mexicans!" And the little boy shrinks into his seat in terror.
It was a brilliant play by Alejandro González Iñárritu, and maybe some will think it too-heavy-handed a commentary on the xenophobia and racism that exists between Americans and Mexicans, but I thought it was amazing.
In general, it was refreshing to have a mainstream movie remind us Americans how much turmoil we cause internationally. But it was also wonderful to have each of the characters so fully developed. There was little polarization. Characters were acting of their own free will, making mistakes, being human, and suffering the consequences.
Instead, the polarization comes from within us. Inarritu allows us to use our preexisting judgements to decide who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. He brilliantly places each character in their environment and allows that environment to dictate their actions - and their consequences.
I left disoriented, wondering if we have any control in our lives. Do we have any mobility? Or are we all trapped by our circumstances in exactly the place we will always be?