Far more engaging, emotionally draining, ballsy, and all around better than Crash. This is what Crash could have been ahd Haggis not had to play ball and make a film accessible to "sensitive" North American audiences. This is also a much fresher take on the themes of racism (far more subtle here) and miscommunication (the main theme). Ok, enough with menitoning Crash.
This is a very compelling, gripping, and harrowing look at multiple intertwined stories that take place in multiple placs overthe course of roughly a week or so. It's even more impressive that all the stories are connected by more than just themes as well. What's most impressive is that it's all very believable and the audience really cares what happens- even though there are several scenes that are hard to watch, not because of graphic violence or that kind of thing, but because of how emotionally intense things get.
Crash wasn't the only film that came out within the past few years that was an epic film with interconnected stories dealing with global themes. Syriana is another. Both Crash and Syriana have their merits, but both fall short for various reasons, mainly the inability ot engage the audience and keep them engaged and caring. That's where Babel succeeds, and why it is one of the best films of the decade.
Other elements of note are the terrific (great understatement) performances by an extremely talented ensemble cast, the haunting, award winning score, the effective uses of sound/silence and the usage of light/dark. One of the most unforgettable elements (alogn with the score) is the camera work. Every scene looks like a painting, and not just the landscape shots either. Had the cinematography not been so well done, the film would have suffered, as it is one of the most important parts of the film that hold is all together. If I haven't stressed it enough yet, I will once again mention that this is a gutsy film, which is what makes it that much more powerful. I feel that this film is required viewing for everyone alive right now, but I will stress that this is a draining and "heavy" film that does start slow, but if one stays with it, they will be greatly rewarded.