Eye For Film >> Movies >> Syriana (2005) Film Review
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
The fashion for ensemble pictures continues apace (Magnolia, Traffic, Crash) and single word titles have an ironic simplicity, considering the complex multi-plottage within. Syriana joins the club, this time taking the genre into a territory known as Eh?
In the land of Eh?, the visitor (that's you) hasn't a clue what's going on. Of course, the inhabitants (scriptwriters) expect tourists (viewers) to possess a high level of political and emotional sophistication, as well as a natural ability to keep up.
Let's talk message. By doing so, no one has to become entangled in storylines, a potentially mind numbing exercise. Syriana is about power. It's also about oil, the Middle East, suicide fighters, CIA, life and death - especially death - torture and money. It may be the most cynical film since... Sweet Smell Of Success. It is also exquisitely well made.
Reading between the lines, which is all you can do, since the lines are so twisty and bitsy, Syriana is saying that the American Right (George Dubya's crowd) is corrupt beyond the dreams of avarice and the CIA, their own private army, has the moral certitude of Pol Pot. The power brokers in Washington, New York and Austin behave like warlords in tailored suits. Secrecy is the watchword and truth about as welcome as a mistress at a funeral.
Before diving into the morass of subplots, the essence of this intelligent political thriller is who controls the black stuff. The Americans have the experience, but the Chinese have the future. At the same time, oblivious of the merger kings and number crunchers, immigrant Muslim workers are treated with disdain, leaving the younger ones easy pickings for terrorist fundamentalist recruiters. George Clooney's role as a maverick (over the hill?) Canadian CIA operative is hardly essential. Matt Damon's financial analyst, who advises the Oxford educated eldest son of an oil rich desert king, is equally dispensable. However, both provide colouring to the dark shades of corporate malfeasance, inhabited by the likes of Chris Cooper and Christopher Plummer.
Rather than risk a headache, trying to make sense of it, allow Syriana's ruthless exposition of disloyalty and violence to destroy your belief in human nature once and for all. You may find the experience liberating.Reviewed on: 03 Mar 2006