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Syriana (2005)

A 2005 drama directed by Stephen Gaghan about conflict in a fictitious Middle Easter country.

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The Plot Spills Well and Abundantly

  • May 25, 2006
Rating:
+3
"Syriana" is a complicated, but thought-provoking film. It has been said time and again that the movie has too many threads to follow. That may be true, but you don't need a notebook to appreciate this movie. Getting the gist of the plot is a better idea and just go along for the ride. The characters are well-done, the tension is formidable, and the revelations are relevant and interesting. We are asked to follow all of the main players in the world oil market, including an American oil broker in Europe (Matt Damon) who puts a PR face of the petroleum industry. We also follow the CIA via a member (George Clooney) and his complicated identities and missions. Then we follow the oil industry directly through a corporate lawyer (Jeremy Wright) and his attempts to create a major merger. Meanwhile, diplomats and militant jihadists are maneuvering to make their mark. The stakes of greed, terrorism, and world need are demonstrated well throughout. Some of the best scenes in the movie show the price that the CIA agent and the understudy jihadist take to advance their agendas.

"Syriana" isn't an easy movie to take, but it is enlightening. One can lament political correctness, but the question is not whether it has a political agenda, but does it ring true? The movie does well to illustrate its point, and only preaches when necessary and only when it manifests naturally through the dialogue. (Unlike "The Constant Gardener," another excellent film, "Syriana" shows us more than tells us about dire situations.) Also, the interlocking stories are not as clearly or neatly woven like in "Nine Lives" or "Crash," but that's more of an asset; one that makes the movie more realistic. It is not mere clamor to show that as our oil resources are dwindling, and developing nations are becoming more oil dependent, creating the math that will add up to some sort of (more major) crisis. If you don't mind the story as it's presented, "Syriana" is a fine and illuminating movie.

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More Syriana (2005 film) reviews
Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
This movie did a great job of showing how an unassuming guy can get caught up in suicide bombing in one of the subplots.
review by . May 21, 2009
Stephen Gaghan is a smart man. He must have known that a guy like me would go an see the movie no fewer than 4 times, just to figure out what the heck is going on. At $8 a pop, that's $32 that I've contributed to the film's $50 Million domestic gross. Not that I'm complaining. In fact, I'm all the better for it. This is a smart film that is so well written that it's not necessary to connect all the dots in order to appreciate the picture. In fact, not connecting the dots may be the point here...   &n …
review by . March 25, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Oil, Blood, and Tears
2005 proved to be a year of politically and socially conscious films, and among these topical films Syriana stood out from the rest. Directed and written by Stephen Gaghan (Traffic), and inspired by the book See No Evil written by former C.I.A. operative Robert Baer, Syriana is an enigmatic and charismatic drama. Writer/director Stephen Gaghan has created a complex, provocative film that takes aim at the oil industry, political corruption, corporate greed, extremist fundamentalism,  and international …
review by . August 06, 2006
"Munich" was much more successful as a piece of entertainment, with an exciting thriller plot and more fully developed characters. The people in "Syriana" are just pawns in a diplomatic game, and maybe that's the point, but it doesn't make them interesting to watch. Moreover, when the filmmakers attempt to add human interest (e.g. a family tragedy befalls Matt Damon's character), it doesn't work. The ending sequence is nicely suspenseful, and ties some of the disparate plot lines together, but the …
review by . June 23, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
Stephen Gaghan is a master psychologist in addition to being a uniquely creative writer and director. He knows how to take a controversial topic, spread it over a period of time and from vantages that involve everyone who would ever view his information, and pace a film in such away that his viewers must stay glued to the screen and soundtrack so that not a moment of the powerful bits of intrigue he is relating fall out of place. It worked for TRAFFIC: it is stunningly effective in SYRIANA.    S …
review by . December 09, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Great Cast, complex story, interesting characters.     Cons: May seem a bit Liberal for some.     The Bottom Line: A solid film that regardless of your views, will make you think.     Oil, is perhaps the most precious natural resource on the planet and also one of the most controversial. It powers industry and the economies of many nations, yet the regions that contain the largest amounts are often the most unstable, and this instability …
About the reviewer
John L. Peterson ()
Ranked #108
I am a substitute teacher who enjoysonline reviewing. Skiing is my favorite pastime; weight training and health are my obsessions;and music and movies feed my psyche. Books are a treasure and a pleasure … more
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Wiki

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 ...
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Details

Director: Stephen Gaghan
Genre: Drama, Thriller
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Robert Baer, Stephen Gaghan
DVD Release Date: June 20, 2006
Runtime: 128 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
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