Supposedly director Alejandro González Iñárritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga have parted ways over the issue of authorial credit for the three films they’ve collaborated on.

If so, this would be a shame, since their prodigious talent hasn’t yet caught up with their rapidly expanding ambitions. Their latest and possibly last movie, Babel tells interlocking stories in locations all over the world. While its message (we’re all connected) is a hackneyed one, its execution is occasionally happy, especially in one particular spot.

The story properly begins in Morocco, where two preteen brothers named Ahmed and Yussef (Said Tarchani and Boubker Ait El Caid) are playing with the new rifle that their goatherd father just bought to kill jackals. They don’t believe the gun is as powerful as their dad said, so they take a shot at a bus traveling a few miles away, and are quite surprised when they hit it. The bullet strikes an American tourist (Cate Blanchett) in the shoulder, and her husband Richard (Brad Pitt) frantically tries to get her medical attention in a place four hours from the nearest hospital. He manages to call home to San Diego and order his nanny Amelia (Adriana Barraza) to stay over and watch his two kids. Doing so will mean missing her son’s wedding down in Mexico, so Amelia decides to bring the children with her south of the border.

González Iñárritu’s highly flexible visual style allows him to move between settings easily, but he can’t make compelling characters out of the Moroccan brothers nor the American tourists. The Mexican section is the weakest one, oddly enough. Amelia makes a ton of bad decisions, chief among them trusting her nephew (Gael García Bernal) who’s obviously six kinds of shady. These storylines wind to conclusions both happy and tragic, and they feel dutiful rather than powerful.

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