Alejandro González Iñárritu along with writer Guillermo Arriaga completes the trilogy - that started with Amores Perros (Love's a Bitch), which was followed by 21 Grams - with Babel. Iñárritu has been hailed as the finest talent to come out of Mexico in recent years and they above more than justify the claim. The director has fallen out with his writer Guillermo Arriaga over story writing credits and this might the last time we see them work together.

Most critics seem to be upset with what they call the usual Iñárritu tricks of using a non-linear storyline, intersecting lives and coincidences. So is this cutting and splicing getting too repetitive? Is it mere idiosyncrasy? Or a conscious attempt at making it his signature style. More importantly, one should ask whether it is really crucial to the development of the story and the film? Speaking of personal style, I am reminded of an interview in which Robert Altman explained why he wanted all his movies to be certified PG-18. His maverick reason was that his movies required a lot of patience and concentration which kids or teenagers do not possess and for the sake of his craft, a PG-18 rating would keep them out. Iñárritu has a long way to go to reach the stature of Altman, but he certainly has the talent and the boldness. In 21 Grams, Iñárritu clearly went overboard with his trademark routine and the mental exercise of piecing that story together was like having to perform long division. The resulting headache tends to distract you so much that you cannot appreciate the movie. With Babel Iñárritu has achieved the correct proportion where there is more substance to the style. A linear telling of this tale would have killed many of the effects of suspense, discombobulation and confusion.

Alejandro González Iñárritu says:
"I realized that what makes us happy as humans could differ greatly, but that what makes us miserable and vulnerable beyond culture, race language or financial standing is the same for all."

The story takes place in three locations - Mexico, Morocco and Tokyo. Gael Garcia Bernal is fantastic as usual as the Mexican maid's nephew Santiago. Anyone who is not a US citizen will emphathize with the of Santiago bristling anger at the border. When the cop at the border is a little gruff, Santiago sees it as another repeat humiliation and he snaps, setting another chain of events in motion. We know shit happens, but this movie is not about that. Butterflies might flap their wings that lead to disastrous consequences, but not before we have made our choices. All people make decisions at the margin in the movie; some work, some don't. The key difference is how they deal with what happens.

In Morocco, Brad Pitt takes his wife played by Cate Blanchett for a vacation in the vain hope of trying to repair their marriage. When at a roadside restaurant they are served water, Blanchett soon tosses the water and asks, "Why are we here?" This is not so much to question the quality of water in Morocco but the quality of their own relationship. It will take two brothers taking care of their goats and their subsequent fooling around with a gun for the husband and wife to rekindle and rediscover their love for each other. The most poignant story is of the beautiful Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi) who is deaf-mute and is desperately seeking a relationship, any kind of relationship. Finally, after a number of missed attempts, she and her friend have managed to make friends with some boys and go on to visit a hip disco. There are the usual frenzied laser lights, thumping electronic music and a crowd of bodies dancing like crazy. Suddenly, there is silence and we only see the laser lights moving. It is only then we realize how silent and lonely Chieko's world actually is. The realization is devastating. The movie is full of such moments wonderfully captured - sibling rivalry, the humiliation of taking a leak in public, the human need for simple affection, traditional wedding celebration. While is no surprise that the star-studded cast delivered incredible performances, the big 'discovery' was the stellar performance by the lesser known actors, such as the Moroccan Berber family, the cops investigating the scene(s), the Japanese teenagers and the two kids. While it may seem that Iñárritu's canvas has considerably expanded since the Mexico City chronicles in Amores Perros, he is really still exploring the same themes of relationships, love, loss and longing, only more polished this time around. Gustavo Santaolalla having given music for the movie makes it reason enough for me to watch. Quite clearly, this is one of the best movies of the year.