'Babel' a Troubling Masterpiece

"Babel," which stars Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt among a cast of mostly unknown yet terrific actors, is a masterpiece.

But for the life of me I don't know why anyone would want to see it.

This independent film, by Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu, is so intense and emotionally disturbing that no dialogue is needed.

With incredible original music by Gustavo Santaolalla, "Babel" would work with the score alone, even without dialogue.

Yet then we would lose the tragic story of a deaf/mute Japanese teen who's trying to find herself after her mother commits suicide. And that would be a shame, since Chieko's (Rinko Kikuchi) story is the one most worth watching.

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Iñárritu seamlessly brings you to Morocco, Mexico and Japan as he demonstrates a cliche among cliches: that it's a small world after all.

In other words, the director takes the long way around "the butterfly effect," or chaos theory. If a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, it could set off a series of events that end up in a tornado or a hurricane thousands of miles away.

In this case, it is a rifle in the hands of children that sparks an international incident.

The film begins with a Moroccan peasant walking through the desert trying to sell his rifle. The rifle is used later in a tragic game by children who wind up accidentally shooting an American tourist, played by Blanchett.

We later learn that the rifle belonged to a Japanese businessman, whose wife committed suicide, leaving him and his deaf/mute daughter to pick up the pieces.

Meanwhile Pitt, who plays Blanchett's husband, and Blanchett are trying to cope with the death of their third child to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

This finds them both in Morocco so they can be alone while their children are cared for by the Mexican nanny, Amelia, played touchingly by Adrianna Barazza.

Pitt and Blanchett's parts are pretty much actor-proof, as their storyline is the weakest of the film. Anyone could have played their characters.

Amelia decides she will take her charges across the Mexican border so she can attend the wedding of her son, and of course you know this can only get worse.

And it does.

Every storyline is tinged with impending doom, and none disappoint. You'll find yourself squirming in your seat, closing your eyes and pretty much wondering why you spent $10 to put yourself through such agony, particularly if you're a parent.

From the tragic story of the rifle boys in Morocco, to the touching story of Chieko as she struggles to find herself and ultimately the loss of the children in the desert around the Mexican border, Iñárritu leaves no parent un-squirmed.

It's ironic then that he dedicates this film to his own children, his "lights in this dark world."

Indeed. After watching this film, you'll rush home to pay the babysitter, and you just might wake up in the bunk bed next to the light of your life, who is safe in your arms.

Keeping It Reel?

"Babel" makes you think about what you have, and how suddenly and easily the things you care for most could be in danger. That said, while a commendable reminder, we do have the nightly local news for that.

And it's free.

"Babel" opens in limited release this Friday, and nationwide November 10.

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