Movie of the Day – Syriana
July 16, 2012 Leave a comment
I don’t know about a lot of people, or just people in general, but I love me some political thrillers. More so, in the case of today’s pick, Geo-political thrillers. Syriana is about as topical as film can get in our day and age. Gas prices, petroleum and Middle East concerns all play a vital part in this big circle jerk of a political and economic issue we face today. I will admit, I try and follow as closely as possible to world politics when I am not watching movies, but the world of oil and petroleum prices, production and their relation to the geo climate of politics in countries not the US, it’s all so damn confusing. I guess that is why this movie is so damn good, it manages to at least present the complicated and global effect that politics and distribution plays in oil production. So you learn as you are entertained!
Reform-minded Gulf country prince Nasir (Alexander Siddig) is in favor of making his nation more self-sufficient rather than U.S.-reliant, and his money-minded Western connections couldn’t be less pleased. Before settling into a cushy desk job for the remainder of his career, CIA agent Bob Barnes (George Clooney) is sent on one last assignment — to assassinate Prince Nasir and reinstate U.S. ties in the oil-rich region. Though his loyalty dictates that Barnes carry out his current mission despite lingering doubts of a previous blunder, his mission goes horribly awry when his field contact goes turncoat and Barnes becomes a CIA scapegoat. Meanwhile, up-and-coming Washington attorney Bennett Holiday (Jeffrey Wright) attempts to walk a fine line in overseeing a tenuous merger between two oil giants that’s plagued with shady business dealings. Hotshot energy analyst Bryan Woodman (Matt Damon) is in talks to form a lucrative partnership with Prince Nasir, though the death of his son during a party at the prince’s estate makes him question his loyalty to business over family. Back in Washington, D.C., Bennet’s boss Dean Whiting attempts to undermine Prince Nasir’s attempts to make his country less reliant on the U.S. dollar by planting the seeds of dissonance between the progressive prince and his money-minded younger brother Prince Meshal (Akbar Kurtha). ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi
Stephen Gaghan makes his directorial debut with a refined script that is reminiscent of his work on Traffic, to give us a complex, layered and intriguing geopolitical thriller that utilizes the complexity of parallel stories and a wide range of actors to explore the politics behind oil. I love his script for Traffic, with the layer and interweaving story lines that all bind everything together. Gaghan, along with Producer and Star George Clooney, attempt to cover a lot of ground with four diverse stories that are all tied together in the dirty business of oil and politics. The smart script, tight directing and overlapping narrative structure does help convey to the lay person how puzzling and dark the world of politics and the by-products of oil business is to those on the outside.
There are four concurrent stories that happen in the film, each twisting and confusing as the next. There is the Emir story which is about diversifying the region from an oppressive regime (due to the stranglehold of the oil supply in the region) to that of a democratic nation. The use of the funds would help usher in economic and social changes through the selling and production of oil. An assassination story that is meant to showcase the efforts to stem the destabilization of a region, all the while trying to thwart the risk of regime changes. The story of Wasim, a migrant worker who is effected by the sudden change in oil production control from an American company to that of a Chinese company. We follow the lives of the workers and their role in a much larger, dangerous task. Last is the Merger story line which is all politics and dirty dealing between government and business.
All the stories are vastly complex and rich in detail. The acting itself is amazing with such a cast that ranges from Clooney, Matt Damon, Jeffery Wright, Christopher Plummer, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Amanda Peet, and Chris Cooper. Each character is tied to one another through some hidden action that happens in one of the parallel story lines that adds to the intrigue of the whole film. I don’t want to talk about each story or actor as the post would be far too long. But any scene with Clooney, Damon and Wright are the best of the film.
Overall, Syriana is a deeply engrossing film that spans across all area of geopolitics from the big government, business, and down to the workers that all fuel the machine. At times, the film is confusing, but then again so is the topic. I guess if you had a degree in geopolitics or corporate politics, then you will be nodding your head in understanding. For someone like me, and I am assuming others out there, this will be a head scratching ride that weaves every facet of the world into one slightly depressing film about the oil hold and how it effects every aspect of the world.
*images via RottenTomatoes