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Babel
2-Disc Collector's Edition

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: R (For Violence, Some Graphic Nudity, Sexual Content, Language and Some Drug Use)

Running Time: 143 minutes

Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal, Rinko Kikuchi, Koji Yakusho

Written by: Guillermo Arriaga
Based on an Idea by: Guillermo Arriaga and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Directed by: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

 

Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $34.99

Features: Common Ground: Under Construction Notes, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (24 Scenes)

Released: September 25th, 2007

 

 

"Babel" is presented in anamorphic widescreen, with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It's a pretty solid transfer that certainly captures the variety of locations featured in the movie. Detail is outstanding, the bold colors are rich and the hues well-saturated, and fleshtones look quite nice. The print used is rather clean, and there's no edge enhancement whatsoever. The overall image quality is pretty sharp too, though some scenes exhibit a bit of graininess. If there's any downside to this transfer though, it's that the noise and edge halos exhibited is distracting, especially in parts of the movie where there is heavy color filtering. Regardless, the film's strong visuals are well-represented here - and that's what's most important.

 

The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track is remarkably robust. There are some discrete surround effects that make powerful use of the rears, such as the aftermath of the fateful gun shot (namely the cattle running) or the bustling city streets of Mexico. I was really impressed though just how great the variety of music sounded - the songs and Gustavo Santaolala's score are layered thick, and are creatively spread out through the channels. It really brings ample power to the movie, and makes you feel like you are lost in the chaos.

Fidelity is pretty high, and the dynamic range of the track is quite excellent. There's also ample subwoofer use, and great imaging to boot. Dialogue is clear and easy to hear, but sometimes become overpowered by sound effects or music. Given the film's themes of communication (or lack of thereof), this might be intentional.

Also included on the disc is an English Dolby Surround track, a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track, and subtitles in English and French. English closed captions are available through your television set.

 

If you held out for this Collector's Edition, you might be disappointed that there is only one extra (other than the Theatrical Trailer on the first disc) that eats up the entire second disc. Still, it is a goodie though, and it's the feature-length documentary Common Ground: Under Construction Notes. Lasting a whopping 87 minutes, this is a phenomenal and incredibly entertaining piece that covers the film's worldwide shoot. There's plenty of interviews with all sorts of people who worked on the movie, and even some footage of rehearsals, but the real focus of this documentary rests on "Babel"'s passionate director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Inarritu digs incredibly deep here: about his own fascination with humanity, the themes of the film and finding the proper tone for it, and him being a very demanding filmmaker. Inarritu certainly has a vision, and he's very candid about his process, which results in a few disagreements with his collaborators. "Babel" was a very demanding shoot, and the documentary also gives way to a lot of challenges the crew faced, an insight into the process of many talented people who contributed to the movie, and even an overlap with issues the story touches upon with those making the film (namely, Mexican emigrants as extras). I don't want to ruin what's in here - since there is a lot - but rest assured this is a real, honest look at filmmaking that is far from produced fluff that is often crammed onto DVDs. To paraphrase Inarritu in the documentary, it's a miracle that when making a movie, anything goes right.

Subtitles for the doc are available in English, French and Spanish and there are chapter stops. But why, oh why, is the documentary in non-anamorphic widescreen!?

 

"Babel" is definitely one of the more polarizing films in recent memory, and while I don't think it reached the dramatic heights of the last Arriaga-Inarritu collaboration - "21 Grams" - it's still worth seeing at least once. The transfer and 5.1 mix are quite good, and the documentary is wildly engrossing. As great as the documentary is, I'm not sure I can justify plunking down 30 dollars just for it if you bought the movie the first time. If you didn't purchase "Babel" a few months prior, then by all means this is a worthy purchase. If you already own the movie and are a fan, then I highly recommend a rental of this "collector's edition" to see the sole extra.