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PARAMOUNT

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Alejandro González Ińárritu
Cast:
Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael García Bernal, Rinko Kikuchi
Writing Credits:
Guillermo Arriaga

Synopsis:
Tragedy strikes a married couple on vacation in the Moroccan desert, touching off an interlocking story involving four different families.

Box Office:
Budget
$25 million.
Opening Weekend
$5,558,095 on 1251 screens.
Domestic Gross
$34,302,837.

MPAA:
Rated R

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:
English Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 143 min.
Price: $9.98
Release Date: 2/20/2007

Bonus:
• Trailer
• Previews


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EQUIPMENT
-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
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-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


RELATED REVIEWS


Babel [Blu-Ray] (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 3, 2019)

With a title like Babel, you expect a movie that takes unusual paths, and that’s exactly what you get with this challenging 2006 film. A Moroccan family acquires a rifle to kill jackals that threaten their sheep.

They leave the gun with young sons Ahmed (Said Tarchani) and Yussef (Boubker Ait El Caid) to guard the animals, and the boys debate whether it can shoot as far as promised. They decide to fire at a moving tour bus and they hit it.

From there we go to San Diego to meet a Mexican housekeeper named Amelia (Adriana Barraza). She cares for Mike (Nathan Gamble) and Debbie (Elle Fanning), the kids of an American couple.

Amelia’s son is getting married and she ends up stuck looking after Mike and Debbie the day of the ceremony. They go off to the event with Amelia’s nephew Santiago (Gael Garcia Bernal).

As for the kids’ parents, Richard (Brad Pitt) and Susan Jones (Cate Blanchett) are in Morocco as a getaway to try to help relieve some marital stress. This doesn’t work, and it gets worse when that bullet I mentioned earlier strikes their tour bus… and hits Susan in the neck.

Abruptly the movie leaves that scene to take us to Japan and introduce us to Chieko (Rinko Kakuchi), a deaf teen girl who lives with her widowed dad Yasujiro Wataya (Koji Yakusho). Her mother died under suspicious circumstances and she remains somewhat distant from her father. Her burgeoning sexuality also causes her to act out in unusual ways.

Babel traces and ultimately connects all of these different stories, and the movie veers from one to another constantly as it slowly manages to intertwine them. All of this leads us to see the ways the tales are related and how they end.

In structure, I find a lot about Babel that reminds me of 2000’s Traffic and 2005’s Crash. All three flicks feature interwoven narratives, large ensemble casts, and topical subject matter.

In execution, I’m happy to report that Babel seems much more like the engrossing Traffic than the superficial Crash. The film integrates its different stories surprisingly well, as it melds them smoothly and doesn’t become frustrating despite the apparent lack of connection.

Indeed, the story that seems to most tangential – Chieko’s – often becomes the most intriguing partially due to its vague attachment to the other three tales. We can easily connect those threads, but it takes awhile before we figure out what we’re doing in Japan. That factor allows those scenes to keep us even more involved since we work harder to establish a link.

In a related vein, I very much like the fact Babel doesn’t spell everything out for us. For instance, we don’t get beaten over the head about the conflict between Richard and Susan.

If we pay attention, we figure out that it relates to the demise of their infant son, but the film leaves this in the background. That’s an effective technique, as it allows the story to evolve naturally without scenes of obvious exposition.

Babel definitely shouldn’t be viewed as a star vehicle for Pitt and/or Blanchett. It includes no leading roles, as everyone’s a supporting actor ala Traffic.

The PR people obviously billed Pitt and Blanchett highest for marketing value, but they aren’t the main focus of the film, so don’t expect them to dominate the flick.

Actually, thematic material would be the star of Babel, as obviously it pushes a subtext of culture clash. That relates to the title and accentuates the ways that we find it tough to get along.

The movie doesn’t overstate this and give us the mind-numbingly obvious treatment of Crash. Yeah, the interconnections stretch credulity, but they meld together reasonably well and don’t cause too much eye rolling.

Political messages also materialize in Babel. If we look, we can find messages in there connected to US policies about terrorism, border control and firearms, but the movie remains acceptably low-key about these. They’re there, but they’re not shoved down our throats.

Because of the movie’s deftly interlocking stories and its understated approach, Babel succeeds. It takes a challenging narrative and weaves the elements together in a satisfying manner. This ends up as a memorable experience.


The Disc Grades: Picture C/ Audio C+/ Bonus D-

Babel appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. A release from the early days of Blu-ray, the image showed its age.

Although the movie featured a lot of natural grain, the transfer appeared to dig into some heavy-handed noise reduction, an issue that became evident during interiors. While exteriors showed obvious grain, the interiors seemed to have scrubbed this clean to a large degree, and that impacted the rest of the picture.

In particular, fine detail suffered, and faces also showed an unnatural clay-like appearance due to the absence of grain. Overall definition was still adequate to good, but the noise reduction marred the proceedings.

I saw no issues with jagged edges or shimmering. No print flaws appeared, but light edge haloes cropped up at times.

In terms of palette, Babel went with stylized hues that looked adequate. These varied dependent on setting and seemed reasonably well-reproduced, though they never quite excelled.

The same went for blacks, which were acceptable, and shadows, which came across with decent clarity. This remained a watchable image but it could use a new transfer, as this one seemed a bit flat and lackluster.

Although the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Babel suffered from no flaws, it came across as surprisingly subdued. With all the various settings and different kinds of action, I thought we’d get a more involving presentation.

Instead, the material stayed heavily focused on the front speakers and didn’t broaden tremendously well. Music showed nice stereo imaging, and effects spread to the sides with reasonable efficiency. They just never really stood out as too memorable.

The same went for the surrounds. The back speakers reinforced music and effects but didn’t add a lot to the proceedings. The Japanese scenes were the most active, as streets and clubs brought out greater vivacity. However, these didn’t kick into high gear at any time, and the track remained moderately restrained in a way that became slightly disappointing.

At least the audio quality was fine. Speech sounded crisp and natural, with no edginess or other issues.

Music was full and dynamic, as the score and songs showed nice definition. Effects also came across as clear and accurate, with good low-end when appropriate. The restricted soundfield of the mix left it with a “C+“ – a grade that lost some due to the absence of a lossless option.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the prior DVD? Audio remained identical, as the Blu-ray duplicated the lossy soundtrack of the DVD.

As for the visuals, they demonstrated an upgrade solely due to the superior capabilities of Blu-ray. I’m sure both DVD and BD used the same transfer.

Virtually no extras appear here. We get a trailer for Babel along with a Preview for Blu-ray Disc.

Babel follows such an interesting path that it seems open for the examination. This is a rich, engrossing film that keeps us alert and occupied. The Blu-ray offers mediocre picture and audio and it lacks supplements. As much as I like the movie, the Blu-ray disappoints.

To rate this film, visit the original review of BABEL

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