A goat herder purchases a high powered rifle to ward off predatory jackals gets more than he bargains for when his two sons experiment with the shooting range of the rifle. In a test of sibling rivalry, the bullet which is fired on a lone road at a touring bus, connects with our second story- A vacationing American couple from southern California (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett). Blanchett is struck by the bullet and is bleeding profusely. Distress triggers parallel chaotic incidents which link us to and span three countries.
From the torment ensued by Pitt when he actively tries to call upon the American Embassy for help to the couple’s housekeeper, Amerlia, (who cannot find help to care for Pitt and Blanchett’s kids so she as a last ditch effort to see her son get married), who drags the kids along with her across the border. What happens when they attempt to reenter the country from Mexico is enough to feel for her saddening plight. Back in Morocco, tension builds as the goatherder informs his sons that he has heard terrorists shot an American tourist.
With things getting increasely worse, we enter our next story which involves Chieko, a deaf-mute Japanese teen volleyball player with a propensity for flaring tempers and sex-starved tendencies. Her desperate cries for love from her widowed dad, who as she puts it, “never paid attention to her” unlike her mother who she tells people died by a lethal fall.
It so happens that Chieko’s father was the very hunter who gave an old Moroccan guide a rifle for being a good man who accompanied him on a hunt. This same guide sold the rifle to our goatherder in the Moroccan branch of the storyline. The events are cleverly interwoven to suggest all things have a purpose or reason despite great distances.
Cinematically, the story is stylistically shot and performances are compelling and emotional. Unfortunately, what is an impassioned, creatively devised plot of a picture of the woes of humanity through the eyes of different families, some puzzle pieces belong together where others do not.
By far, the story of the Moroccan family woven with the story of the American couple have the strongest tie. What does not belong or has the weakest link would be Chieko’s story in Tokyo. By itself, it develops into a story which has its appeal all on its own. At a running time of 142 minutes, “Babel”, lacks the strength and punch to create a completed puzzle of what was initially intended.