Syriana
Director: Stephen Gaghan (Abandon)
Writer: Stephen Gaghan
            Robert Baer (book)
Producer: Jennifer Fox, Georgia Kacandes, Michael Nozik
Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Alexander Siddig, Chris Cooper, Jeffrey Wright
MPAA Rating:R
read my spoiler disclaimer



     Slightly confusing, but if you keep your wits about you, remember people's names and company names you should have no trouble following the basic plotline and figure out what is going on. Secondly, I was fooled by the trailer (rare for me) that shows a fairly heated and exciting film. But that is not what is shown. It is mostly dialogue and a thinking piece; which is fine, I just thought I was in for a little bit more of an exciting experience, as the two hour running time really drags in a lot of places. But again, don't blink, because you'll be confused later if careful attention is not paid to the screen.

      If you saw Steven Soderbergh's magnificent film, "Traffic," back in 2000, "Syriana" has many similar aspects of that film as it is directed by Steven Gaghan (Traffic's writer), but in my opinion, not quite as good. Instead of the drug trafficking trade, it is oil production and selling. Similarly to "Traffic," there are three or four stories all revolving around one another while simultaneously telling a part of the same story. There are several players surrounding each piece of the puzzle: the major U.S. oil companies, the Saudi Royalty, lawyers, negotiators and terrorists. Surrounding all of this are the effects all of this has on families on all sides.

      Syriana takes place sometime between the present and the not too distant future, where natural gas and oil are starting to become scarce and everyone wants a piece, or all, of what's left; and everyone is willing to fight dirty to get it. Although mostly anti-capitalism and does show the American corporations and government as pretty bad guys, it also shows the stupidity of some of the oil tycoons in the middle east and the brutality and futility of suicide terrorism. Basically it just paints a bleak picture of the entire oil industry all the way around.

Damon and Siddig in "Syriana"
      George Clooney plays an American "inquisitor" who gathers information and "cleans up messes" with possible problems in the oil business abroad. Matt Damon plays a negotiator and a financial advisor to a Saudi Prince who stand to inherit his father's oil riches. Fairly decent acting roles by all involved, especially by the Saudi Prince's actor, Alexander Siddig (Kingdom of Heaven, Reign of Fire); however nothing really exceptional stood out for me and I'll feel slighted if any of these performances are considered Oscar-worthy over the other performances we've seen through throughout year.

      As I mentioned before, there is not much of an excitement factor to this film as the trailer may lead you to believe. It is mostly a thinking piece with moments of action thrown in. Having said that, those moments of action are very intense and pack quite of an emotional punch to really help keep the story on track.

      It's too bad I'm not quite smart enough to effectively review this film for you the way it deserves to be reviewed. I can say this, it is a film for the intelligent among us. Although a made up story with some aspects of truth, it will create a lot of discussion and possibly arguments among people who are into that sort of thing; i.e. corruption, politics, greedy execs and corporate terrorism. I won't get into that here, but I can say I thoroughly enjoyed the film and would like to see it again one day when I'm in the mood to look deeper into it instead of having to concentrate so hard on what is going on. As long as you realize what you are about to see is not an action thriller (although there are bits of that intertwined), and may play a bit with your political leanings and/or passions, you too can enjoy Syriana as a well done film that pulls back the curtains, so to speak, and may just open your eyes slightly into something darker that lurks just under your nose...or your gas tank.




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drewbacca@moviepatron.com