World Travel
New Original Fiction
Books & Movies

Film Space
Movies in depth
Dreamscapes Two
More Fiction
Lifestyles Archive
Politics & Living
Sam Hawksmoor
New mystery fiction


••• The International Writers Magazine - 24 Years on-line - Film review

Babylon (2022)
Directed by Damien Chazelle
Starring Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, Tobey Maguire, Jovan Adepo & many more …
• Sam North review


This was one of the few movies I’ve been keenly awaiting to see and finally it arrived in the UK on Jan 20th.  All three hours of it.  It’s a mess, but kind of like a road crash you stay to rubberneck as things unfold before you.  I must say immediately that the soundtrack is amazing; the jazz is terrific composed by Justin Hurwitz, who composed for the delightful La-La-Land.  The trumpet never sounded so great in a movie before.

Margot Robbie does her usual manic shtick. She’s an accomplished performer who inhabits her roles 100% but it’s like looking at a light too bright to see anything else around her. It was similar in 'Amsterdam' another period movie audiences didn't take to. Here she plays Nellie Leroy (who is possibly a riff on Clara Bow whose career was torpedoed by the coming of sound).  She gets a lucky break and is always confident that she will be a star. The film takes us from the peak of silent filming to the transition to sound with all that entails. Brad Pitt’s character Jack Conrad is likely based on John Gilbert or Douglas Fairbanks whose very successful careers also imploded in the sound era.  Chazelle has a thing for the glory days of cinema and the overall effect is one of sadness as these characters self-destruct in a world that offers them too much excess and indulgences. 

Morgot Robbie The scenes of debauchery at the beginning of the film are astonishing as people have sex openly, swallow copious amounts of alcohol and snort coke from huge piles – all to an exhilerating jazz soundtrack. But like much of this film it stays with this party far too long as we wait for any kind of story to begin. 

An early scene borrows from the Fatty Arbuckle scandal where a girl died during a sex act and led to his downfall. Chazelle repeats the excesses all over again when Tobey Maguire (loan shark, gambler) takes the other star of this movie, Diego Calva (playing Manny) into his underground torture chamber.  It’s kind of unnecessary to hit us over the head with men eating rats. Diego Calva’s story arc is the best in the movie and kind of holds it all together. He begins as a gofer delivering an elephant to the party and rapidly rises (thanks to Jack Conrad) to become a producer himself. Ever in love with Nellie Leroy, who of course abuses his trust and affections because she cares nothing for anyone, including herself. Her con-artist father is played by Eric Roberts, haven't seen him in anything for years. Brad Pitt is great playing the fading movie star but it's not new. Like the character he plays he's recyling, not acting.

As I said earlier, it’s a sad film with a tiny nod to Cinema Paradiso at the end.  The sets, the photograpy and styling are brilliantly done, but I suspect the American audiences expected a celebration of cinema rather than a requiem and that’s why it didn’t work for them. It could be trimmed by an hour with all the excesses taken out and be a lot better for it. But hey, what do I know?  I only paid £7.00 to see it in a matinee (sole person in the cinema). But if you're going to see it - see it on a big screen. The sequences of giant epic silent movies being shot everywhere at once is spectacular. Perhaps Chazelle is trying to tell us that there was no plan, no sense of discipline in the making of these movies, but I too have read abut the meticulous planning and execution of Chaplin or Keaton movies and this big scene on the battlefield seems to betray those early pioneers who did, in fact, make something lasting and inspiring despite crude technology. Watch 'The General' from 1926 and be in real awe of what Buster Keaton achieved before the coming of sound.

© Sam North Jan 21st 2023
author of The Cure for Sceptics a Delaney and Asha mystery

More about film

Share |


© Hackwriters 1999-2023 all rights reserved - all comments are the individual writer's own responsibility -
no liability accepted by or affiliates.