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Syriana is an oil-based soap opera set against the world of global oil cartels. It is to the oil industry as Traffic was to the drug trade (no surprise, since writer/director Stephen Gaghan wrote the screenplay to Traffic): a sprawling attempt to portray the vast political, business, social, and personal implications of a societal addiction, in this case, oil. A major merger between two of the world's largest oil companies reveals ethical dilemmas for the lawyer charged with making the deal (Jeffrey Wright), and major global implications beyond the obvious; a CIA operative (George Clooney) discovers the truth about his work, and the people he works for; a young oil broker (Matt Damon) encounters personal tragedy, then partners with an idealistic Gulf prince (Alexander Siddig) attempting to build a new economy for his people, only to find he's opposed by powers far beyond his control. Meanwhile, disenfranchised Pakistani youths are lured into terrorism by a radical Islamic cleric. And that's just the start. As in Traffic, in one way or another all of the characters' fates are tied to each other, whether they realize it or not, though the connections are sometimes tenuous. While Syriana is basically a good film with timely resonance, it can't quite seem to measure up to Gaghan's ambitious vision and it very nearly collapses under the weight of its many storylines. Fortunately they are resolved skillfully enough to keep the film from going under in the end. To some viewers, Syriana will seem like an unfocused and over-loaded film that goes, all at once, everywhere and nowhere. Others will find it to be an important work earnestly exploring major issues. In either case, it's a film that deserves to be taken seriously, and it's likely to be one that will be talked about for a long time to come. --Dan Vancini --This text refers to the DVD edition.
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Despite the fact that it is a little difficult to keep track of the diverse stories that "Syriana" comprises, it is well worth the effort, due to the fact that it allows the spectator to understand what is at stake for different people in the oil industry, and how a decision made by one of them affects the rest. What does Bob (George Clooney), a CIA operative, has to do with a poor immigrant who works in an oil field, or with a young reformist prince (Alexander Siddig)? And what do a broker (Matt Damon) and a lawyer (Jeffrey Wright) that don't know each other have to do with all of them? Oil, power, corruption and manipulation are the main subjects in "Syriana". This film is fiction, but some of its elements could well be truth, and that makes you think.
On the whole, I think "Syriana" is a complicated movie, but one that deserves your time and attention. If you don't mind the fact that you must follow several stories at once, and that this film is undeniably serious and doesn't have any kind of comic relief, I think you will enjoy "Syriana". I know I did...
The worst (that is, the most boring) of the four story lines is the one where Jeffrey Wright plays a lawyer investigating possible corruption in an American oil company merger. It's very difficult to make this kind of material cinematic, and writer/director Gaghan doesn't succeed. Many of the characters involved in this plot make speeches that are meant to be thought- provoking, but they come out of nowhere and are just as quickly forgotten. Better is the story about the young man training to be a terrorist: it's easy to follow, and shows us something not usually depicted in movies. Still, sandwiched between the other plot lines, it feels like a shallow exploration of how terrorists are made.
George Clooney, with his beard and weight gain, is certainly unrecognizable in his role as CIA employee Bob Barnes, and his acting is competent. But if he hadn't been involved in "Goodnight and Good Luck" this same year, I doubt he would have won the Oscar for this performance. Even here, he is outshone by Alexander Siddig, who plays Nasir, a reformist Arab prince. In a movie that tries to show the complexities and gray areas of Middle Eastern oil politics, Nasir is perhaps the most complex of all: spoiled and ambitious, but with noble ideals.
Also, for a movie that wants to be an intelligent exploration of the oil industry, why is the Iraq war mentioned only once, in a throwaway line?
The plot of "Syriana" is pretty complex, but the situation is relatively simple. One the oil producing nations of the Persian Gulf signs a deal to supply its oil to China, which was what the Texas-based oil company Connex wanted to do. Meanwhile, Killen, a small oil company, signs a deal to drill for oil in Kazakhstan, so Connex strikes a merger deal, which gets the attention of the U.S. government because there are things here that do not add up (unless you think in terms of petrodollars).Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Made me understand the business of oil, hard and shifty,Published 8 months ago by madeleine champagne
A gritty story about the interactions of two Americans with the complexities of the Arab culture in the Middle East. An intelligent film.Published 20 months ago by Norrin Radd
Service and delivery were great but I did not realize it was wide screen until I received it. Harder to watch.Published on Oct. 12 2014 by Tony Mandarano