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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner2/11/2006

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 142 mins

Inarritu and screenwriter Arriaga go three for three with this gripping emotional drama, featuring a terrific script and strong performances from its ensemble cast.

What's it all about?
Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga follow their impressive collaborations on Amores Perros and 21 Grams with another gripping multi-character drama that takes a similarly structured approach. In Morocco, two brothers (Boubker Ait El Caid and Said Tarchini) are practicing with their dad's new rifle when they shoot a tour bus, accidentally hitting Susan (Cate Blanchett), the wife of Richard (Brad Pitt), an American tourist.

As the boys panic and scatter and Richard desperately tries to get Susan some medical attention, the film picks up two other story strands, including rebellious deaf mute girl Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi) in Tokyo and a nanny (Adriana Barraza) taking her two American charges (Elle Fanning and Nathan Gamble) across the border into Mexico, in order to attend her son's wedding. However, on the drive back, her hot-headed nephew Santiago (Gael Garcia Bernal) clashes with an officious border guard (Clifton Collins Jnr).

The Good
The entire ensemble cast give terrific performances, particularly Kikuchi, whose heart-breaking performance is simultaneously shocking, funny and moving. Brad Pitt is extremely good too in a role that actually allows him to play (and look) his own age for once.

The title comes from a Biblical reference to people being unable to communicate because of different languages. Miscommunication is at the heart of each of the storylines, which leads to powerful moments when characters finally manage to connect, particularly Chieko's encounter with a young detective (Satoshi Nikaido) and Richard's tentative friendship with his tour guide (Mohamed Ahkzham).

The Bad
The only problem with the film is that one of the key twists is spoiled by being able to hear both sides of a phone conversation in an early scene.

Worth seeing?
Minor quibbles aside, this is a brilliantly directed, gripping drama that packs a powerful emotional punch.

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Content updated: 22/11/2019 00:48

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