Syriana

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Oil Can Get Your Hands Dirty: Syriana

Sep 11, 2006 (Updated Sep 11, 2006)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Very Good

  • Suspense:

Pros:Story, acting

Cons:Overlong, talky, slow

The Bottom Line: Syriana gives a look at some factors that may be driving the global oil industry.


Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

Syriana (2005)

"Dig six feet, find three bodies - but dig twelve feet and you may find forty."

Real life is messy. Most of us would agree that things just don’t always work out the way we plan and Syriana tries to show the relationships and repercussions of many seemingly random actions on a global scale.

The subject is oil and the developed world’s thirst for it. Yes, soccer moms want to continue to drive their SUVs to the shopping center but to be able to offer that cheap gas, various shady characters are plotting 24/7.

Corruption is the result of the need to keep that cheap oil flowing at all costs. Like a dog chasing his tail, corruption breeds corruption and there is no such thing as just this once…. Everybody involved in the dealings develops a taste for the power corruption brings and quickly becomes a willing participant.

Writer/Director Stephen Gaghan establishes several plot lines in the manner of recent movies like Traffic or 21 Grams where the viewer has to get a quick idea who the character is and what he is doing before it switches to the next vignette.

For example, there is a merger of two US oil firms that is being scrutinized by the US Justice Department; There are guest workers in the Persian Gulf that are being let go because of said merger; There is a colorless CIA operative selling defective Red Eye missiles to the terrorists; There is a prominent law firm fronting for the merger and trying to implicate somebody high enough to throw to the Justice Department; Finally, there is an oil-rich Middle Eastern royal family and the problems of succession. Which son does the father make his heir?

The plot lines eventually converge, after a fashion, but Syriana is more an insider’s view of how the various interests play their hands in the big stakes poker game that is Mid East oil.

Syriana features an ensemble cast, led off by George Clooney (CIA Agent Barnes); Matt Damon (financial advisor Bryan Woodman); Jeffrey Wright (lawyer Bennett Holiday); Alexander Siddig (crown prince Nasir); with a host of supporting characters including familiar faces Christopher Plummer, Chris Cooper, William Hurt, and many more. Most of the performances are excellent and many meaningful phrases are uttered.

It is better to try great things and fail than to never try them at all. Writer/Director Gaghan tried to do a great thing showing the behind-the-scenes of the oil biz, but I don’t think he did the best job possible telling his story, although he tried hard. To his credit, Gaghan did not dumb the story down to appeal to the lowest common denominator. The viewer is required to pay attention and figure out the connections.

The movie is by no means a failure but neither is it the masterpiece that some want to dub it. The plot resolution, for one thing, relied on a freak grandstand play by George Clooney that just happened to coincide with the plans of his handlers. I think this bit of action was tacked on in a vain attempt to give the movie a little badly needed edge. Secondly, the crown prince who was rejected was too much of a white knight and not as Machiavellian as a Middle Eastern prince would be. Thirdly, the government is just not so well organized as Gaghan and some conspiracy theorists seem to think. Bureaucrats miss more often than hit and sister agencies are legendary in their non-cooperation. Fourthly, the movie was just too freaking slow. I love a potboiler but this one definitely needed a little spicing up to get it over the long talky sections – either that, or edit out some superfluous footage, like the Clooney chase scene.

The Warner Bros. DVD is presented in 2.40:1 theatrical aspect, in color, and runs 126 minutes. Since the movie is presented in several foreign tongues, subtitles are reserved for English translation of the foreign utterances. There are two featurettes provided as extra content, as well as the theatrical trailer.

You may think I didn’t like Syriana but that's not true. I think it has important things to say about the state of the world but just didn't say them as well as it could have.

Thanks for stopping by!


Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV

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