Before he went for Babel, Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu toyed with the idea of 'Do Japanese tourists hunt in Morocco?' as the Philip K. Dickesque title for his epic meditation on chance and fate in a globalised world. Well actually, like the film, that's complete bollix. But the question did occur to me as I watched yet another close-up of Brad Pitt in anguish because whether the Japanese do go to Morocco to shoot animals or birds or both is the key to the whole farrago: how the disparate lives of a middle-aged Mexican woman working illegally in the States, an estranged American couple on a group tour holiday in north Africa, an unfortunate kid (and his family) who unintentionally shoots the female half of said couple and a deaf mute Toyko teenager are linked. The latter part of the film is reminiscent of Lost in Translation,the Morocco section is, at times, like Blackboards while the Mexico segment echoes The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, which isn't much of a surprise because Guillermo Arriaga wrote the screenplay for both.
More surprising was Harriet Walter, a great Shakespearean actor, popping up in the tiniest of cameo roles as a disgruntled British tourist desperate to get out of the shitty village Pitt has lead them in search of treatment for his wife. Because of Walter's presence, I imagined that the whole tour bus was a group of English luvvies being brought reluctantly to perform at some far flung Moroccan outpost as part of a joint initiative to foster greater awareness of European culture sponsored by the British Council and the UN, represented on this occasion by Brad Pitt. I was that bored by this long, portentous, pretentious film.