Babel portrays four storylines: two teenage brothers in rural Morraco get into trouble after using the family's newly purchased gun to shoot at cars; an illegal Mexican nanny in southern California takes her two young charges to her son's wedding in Tijuana; an American man in Morraco tries to find medical help for his wife who is accidentally shot by the Morracan brothers; and a deaf urban Japanese teen girl tries to find love after her mother dies. The stories are indirectly related and the film switches from each story throughout. While each story is told linearly, the timelines start within a few days of each other.
The film seems to be about how people in four different cultures are effected by a single event and the differences in each groups setting. A poor Morrocan family that can barely afford a gun; a well-off American couple that takes a bus tour of Morroco to sort out their marital problems; a suburban California illegal nanny attempts a day trip across the border to Tijauna; and a well-off Japanese teen girl tries to deal with her disability and loss of her mother.
While the contrast of the four settings is interesting and the film's editing takes full advantage by switching stories at each story's lull, the movie is about 45 minutes too long (2 hours 22 minutes). All of the characters' life situations are sympathetic; however, all of the characters make poor decisions and reactions. Each of the four stories have a conclusion, but none of the stories are very compelling individually. Over all, the film was not very satisfying -- which was probably the filmmakers' intentions. (Also, Brad Pitts' old man make-up job was really distracting.)