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  • Writer's pictureEllis Barthorpe

Babylon ★★★★★

Updated: Jan 26

Damien Chazelle

Starring Diego Calva, Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Jovan Adept, Flea, Li Jun Li

The glitz and glamour of the film industry in the 1920's is often boasted, but what about the elephant poop and drug overdoses and complications of sound? Damien Chazelle's newest feature Babylon, takes audiences on a ride that never stops to let you get off.

Diego Calva and Margot Robbie expertly play two wannabes (Manny Torres and Nelly LaRoy respectively), desperate to break into the movie industry as it transitions from the silent era to the introduction of talkies. With Miss LaRoy acting like a star before being granted stardom and Manny asking for jobs anywhere he can, we are introduced to all of our leading characters at a riotous party scene - there's a penis pogo stick and an elephant for goodness sake!

It soon becomes apparent that this is a film not set to glorify Hollywood, but instead show its tough-to-break, hard-to-make mentality that comes with making movies. Scenes of cameras breaking, extras dying and sets burning show just how different the movie industry used to be! Risks aren't averted and casualties are brushed under the carpet, for making the movie is "the priority".

Damien Chazelle trusts in the intellect of his audience, and instead of spoon-feeding his thoughts, lets the picture speak for itself. At no point does this make you want to be a part of the chaos, instead it uses humour to create some outrageous scenes (one in particular creates a euphoric audience reaction as Nellie is forced to repeat the same set of movements over and over), and it shows how demeaning and cutthroat the industry can be.

Brad Pitt gives a superb performance as Jack Conrad, a character fighting against the inevitability of his irrelevance; a scene in the later minutes of this 3 hour 10 minute run time is seriously moving.

Javan Adepo is note-perfect as Sidney Palmer, you'll be left wanting more than the little he's given. Although definitely not his story the film gives him enough relevance and shows a striking display of racism that is combatted by Adepo's subtle but heartbreaking facial flinches.

The costumes are flowing, the music is outstanding (the main theme will be in your head for days after) and the production design is out of this world. Though sometimes it feels like it's never going to end, there continues to be grit and indecencies in almost every scene, and as each new one begins you have to recalibrate and broaden your expectations, because the likelihood is it will be unlike anything you've seen.

It's been splitting audiences but Babylon is so quick, and so brash, and so unapologetic that it creates a roller coaster for the eyes and ears. It has a spontaneity to its energy that includes every genre, an eye-widening montage and a standout performance from Margot Robbie. This has to be seen on the big screen!

Babylon available in cinemas now

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