The ads would have you believe Babel is a two-hour Brad Pitt vehicle that showcases him at the top of his acting game. But while the second part of that pitch can certainly be argued, Pitt is merely one leg of a 142-minute monster that uses a single, terrible mistake to set in motion four connected but mostly self-contained stories from vastly different corners of the world.

Babel is a (mostly) non-politicized exploration of misunderstandings and other inevitable products of cultural and lingual barriers. It's also a work of extraordinary filmmaking, giving incredible life to its characters and storylines and having a great knack for cutting away just when you least want it to, only to do the same thing to the scenes that follow when it cuts back.

Pitt and Cate Blanchett do a fine job, but so do Gael García Bernal, Adriana Barraza, Mustapha Rachidi, Boubker Ait El Caid, Said Tarchani and especially Rinko Kikuchi. If you don't know any of those names going in, you likely will heading out.

In a multitude of languages (including sign language) with English subtitles where necessary. No extras.

Grade: A