Rated 2.0

Writer Guillermo Arriaga and director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams) reunite for another dour movie full of interwoven stories with unhappy beginnings and exhausted endings. What we have here are many failures to communicate. The sons of a Moroccan goatherd use a Japanese widower’s rifle to (accidentally) shoot an American tourist whose children will the next day (unrelatedly) be abandoned in the desert after an illegal Mexican border crossing. The tourist already has lost a child and nearly lost her marriage, the widower’s deaf daughter copes badly with her mother’s suicide, and the goatherd’s already squalid life is wrecked by a frenzy of media, police and departments of state. At once mawkish and humorless, the movie coerces instead of earning empathy for its highly pitiable characters. It is intense and technically skillful, but the cool elegance of Iñárritu’s technique has a way of reinforcing his mean streak. Babel has all the ruinous, alienating ambition of the tower for which it’s named. It’s a film, and a kind of filmmaking, to be grown out of.