Babel is relentless. The message of this movie seems to be that the world is just a crappy place, and the best you can hope for is to hang on. It's enough to make you want to throw yourself under a truck and just get it over with, but then you realize that something good, maybe, will happen before you die.
I think the acting was superb across the board, or more precisely, the ensemble. Brad Pitt's talents get lost among the tabloid headlines, but he commits. I've enjoyed his performances since "Thelma and Louise" and especially "A River Runs Through It"; I tend to skip the schlocky stuff he does, but he rarely disappoints me. (I also appreciate that he's not trying to hide his age in Babel - he absolutely looks like a guy in his 40s, a guy who has lived.) Gael Garcia Bernal also brings his unmistakable screen charisma, and Adriana Barraza (Amelia) gives a noteworthy performance as well.
But you can't talk about Babel without highlighting Rinko Kikuchi, who gives a performance that will fill you with despair. The character absolutely breaks your heart.
The problem with Babel is that it doesn't know when to stop - and there's one scene in particular where the movie really goes off the road. There are some forgivable contrivances in Babel a la Six Degrees, but there are also some that are unforgivable. David Denby of The New Yorker was among those who thinks the film goes too far:
My friend Herbert was rude to his mother last spring, and, some time later, Mt. St. Helens erupted. And three girls I met on the Central Park carrousel were kicked out of school for smoking, and the price of silver dropped by forty thousand rupiah in Indonesia. With these seemingly trivial events from my own life, I illustrate the dramatic principle by which the Mexican-born director Alejandro González Iñárritu makes his movies. Iñárritu, who made "Amores Perros" (2000), is one of the world's most gifted filmmakers. But I had the same reaction to "Babel" that I had to his most recent movie, "21 Grams" (2003): he creates savagely beautiful and heartbreaking images; he gets fearless performances out of his actors; he edits with the sharpest razor in any computer in Hollywood; and he abuses his audience with a humorless fatalism and a piling up of calamities that borders on the ludicrous. ...
Most of the coincidences in the film aren't quite so random as Denby's lead implies, so his straw man doesn't quite stand on its own two feet. Plus, the veracity of the connections isn't, in the end, the foundation of Babel But there's no doubt that the film goes out of its way to take you down a depressing, barely redeeming path. Like Flags of Our Fathers, I have no regrets over seeing Babel and no desire to revisit it.