Without revealing too much, let me piece together the stories chronologically. A Japanese businessman goes on a hunting trip to Morocco and points his guide with a rifle. The guide sells the gun to a friend, who needs it to kill the jackals attacking his sheep. Friend’s son pulls towards a tourist bus from a great distance. An American tourist is injured. The tourist’s Mexican nanny, in San Diego, is invited to stay with their two children, but doesn’t want to miss her son’s wedding and takes the children with her to Mexico. Police investigations into the Japanese businessman’s rifle had consequences for his deranged daughter.
Yes, but there is so much more to “Babel” than the common thread of the plot. The film is not, as one would expect, about how each culture inflicts hatred and violence on another, but how each culture tries to behave well and is handicapped by misperceptions. “Babel” could have been a routine account of man’s inhumanity to man, but Inarritu, the writer-director, has something deeper and nicer to say: When we are strangers in a foreign country, we can cause trouble for ourselves and our guests. Before our last probe from Mars took off, it was cleaned to avoid transporting microbes from Earth to the other planet. All the characters in this film are carriers of cultural microbes.
Consider the plight of Yussef (Boubker Ait El Caid), the Moroccan boy. He lives happily with his family, takes care of the sheep, plays with his brother Ahmed. Two alien microbes enter his world: a high powered rifle and a tourist bus. Over a great distance, he childishly shoots each other and seriously injures Susan (Cate Blanchett), an American tourist. Her husband Richard (Brad Pitt) calls for doctors, ambulances, helicopters, but has to settle for a friendly local man who takes Susan to his house and summons what the village has in terms of medical care.