5.31.2007

Babel (2006)

From the title, and the trailer, I was expecting Babel to be a modern day reinterpretation of the Old Testament tale of the Tower of Babel where languages divided the workers. However, this wasn't quite what the movie was.

The base story is that Brad Pitt and Kate Blanchett are off in Morocco on a vacation of some sort with their children left with their Mexican maid. A family of local goat herders in Morocco acquire a rifle to defend the herd from the ravenous jackals. When the boys decide on a little extra target practice, the tour bus gets hit by the bullet. Blanchett's character ends up with a bullet in her- more on that later. We then follow the couple as they seek medical care in a desolate desert, and counter to that the Moroccan authorities search for the shooter. So far so good.

Kind of like the film Magnolia, we have some other stories that intertwine this base story. One subplot follows the Mexican maid taking the couple's children south of the border to attend a family wedding. All right, at least this fits into the plot somehow. However, the last subplot involves a precocious deaf Japanese teenager, and here estranged relationship with her father in light of the recent loss of her mother. While it does finally tie into the main plot, it is cursory at best, and adds almost nothing to the film. It really slows down the pace of the plot to a standstill, and should have been mostly edited out instead of having scenes drag on- even with the remote punched up to 8x! Seriously, there is just too much distraction going on from the main plot.


Once again, I take issue with the injury, the treatment, and how the medical issues progress. Above, I've pasted in the image of where the bullet entered Blanchett's character. Later on, they do confirm that her clavicle was fractured from the trauma. It is a left supracavicular penetrating trauma. If one were choosing a location to be shot, this is not the place to request.

To the left, I've pasted in the relevant anatomy. We can see that of great concern would the sublavian vessels- the artery is in red, and the vein in yellow. Both run just underneath the clavicle. Also remember that a bullet will cause a cone of injury, and unlike a knife, injure surrounding tissue. From the site of entry of the bullet, Blanchett's character would have bled to death quite quickly. There is also, not pictured in the diagram another important structure known as the left lung. When a bullet enters the chest (pleural cavity), it will almost always cause a tension pneumothorax, which is another rapidly fatal cause of trauma death. Between the subclavian vessels causing exsanguination, and the lung collapsing, there would not be time to wander around the desert like depicted in the film. Oh, and a vet (no less) sewing up the skin from the outside would do nothing to temporize things, and would make the pneumothorax worse. All right, I feel better after explaining that there is no way she was walking out of any hospital looking fine.

So what's the final verdict? While the base plot in Morocco is riddled with implausible "medicalese" issues, at least it held my attention. The rest, including the side trips to Mexico, and even worse, Japan, needed some more diligent pruning. I'm aware Babel got nominated for a bunch of awards, I'm still recommending that you pass this one by.

Overall Grade: B-


Read another opinion of this film here.

4 comments:

topbeagle said...

I can't say that I agree with your assesment, you can see my review of the same movie from last year, but I LOVED your medicial explaination. I would be very interested in reading more of this.Cheers

digitaldoc said...

The medical analysis is more thing to make our site unique. Your take on this film was definitely different than mine...

DCNofer said...

Very interesting, Jonas! I've often suspected that there are medical errors in at least some films; I know I've similarly observed errors and misinterpretations of psychology in films. Anyway, will look forward to ur review of the latest 'Pirates' if that's in fact on ur agenda . . .

digitaldoc said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Dave. Pirates is not on the agenda this week, but plenty of other stuff is. There are plenty of medical errors, some are rather more obscure than the obvious one in Babel. If you ever want to share with us the psychology errors, I'd be game to post about it and see what kind of response we get...