Movie Review: ‘Babylon’ passionately depicts good, bad, ugly of film industry


“Babylon” transports viewers into the film industry of the Roaring ’20s. (Photo courtesy of IMDb)

After winning Best Director at the 89th Academy Awards for “La La Land” (2016) and then making another success with “First Man” (2018), Damien Chazelle is back to making movies about movies with his energetic and extravagant three-hour-long epic “Babylon” (2022).

Babylon” dives deep into the film industry during the Roaring ’20s when the transition from silent film to talkies first began.

The film follows four main characters and their experiences during this tumultuous era of filmmaking. Manny Torres (Diego Calva) is a Mexican immigrant and aspiring filmmaker who dreams of working on a movie set. Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt) is a movie star who wins over all the women and earns all the biggest roles. Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie) aspires to become a famous actress, and Sidney Palmer (Jovan Apedo) is a Black trumpeter who also has hopes of becoming the next great star.

Each actor breathes life into their roles in vibrant ways that draw you in. This is especially true of Robbie, who completely transforms into a down-on-her-luck Jersey girl looking to escape the harshness of her past life to a better one. Torres, however, steals the show. He is the viewer’s eyes and ears throughout the film, perfectly embodying the meaning of being a “dreamer.” He desires to be “part of something bigger,” which he portrays throughout the film.

Along with the performances, the cinematography, production design, costuming and music effectively portray the period and truly transport the viewer. Cinematographer Linus Sandgren makes even the simplest of shots feel cinematic, from capturing a vibrant orange sunset to when someone gets pooped on by an elephant. The production design and costumes only add to this, with elaborate sets and over-the-top outfits that are accurate of the period. The film’s $78 million budget is definitely earned.

Justin Hurwitz manages to top his award-winning score from “La La Land” with unique and emotional pieces. The music knows when to take the spotlight and when to step back in times of seriousness. The music that plays during the final montage wraps up the movie’s messages neatly, and it continues to break my heart every time I listen to it.

Babylon shows the insane lengths that individuals reach to succeed while also showing the love, passion and creativity that goes into movie-making. Don’t be fooled by the runtime of just over three hours, for Chazelle’s quick editing, fast-paced script and clever directing make the film go by very quickly. “Babylon” may not appeal to some, but the movie lover will surely be glued to the screen for this one.