Syriana (2005)

Review Date: January 06, 2006

Director: Stephen Gaghan

Writer: Stephen Gaghan

Producers: Jennifer Fox, Michael Nozik, Michael Nozik

Actors:
George Clooney as Bob
Matt Damon as Bryan
Jeffrey Wright as Bennett

plot:

Wow, I wish I knew. Okay, let me try to explain it anyway. This movie revolves around a whole bunch of people from the U.S. and the Middle East, including underground American operatives and lawyers, all the way to a bunch of really rich Saudi royals, disenfranchised Pakistani…and Amanda Peet. In there somewhere is supposed to be a coherent plot of some kind, but for the life of me, I just couldn’t find it. If you can…more power to you!

critique:

I haven’t used this phrase too often in my reviews this year, so allow me to brush some cobwebs from it and integrate it into this film’s review, as it is likely the most deserving of the honor of “most overrated movie of the year”. That’s right, critics seem to have universally praised this flick, along with that other overrated film of the year THE CONSTANT GARDENER, but I’m not afraid to say that I just don’t get what all the fuss is about. Now either this film was too smart for me or a little too dumb – in the sense that it wasn’t able to get any of its points across to someone of average intelligence like myself. Maybe this film was created for only those dilettantes, politicians and pundits, most of whom I assume will understand what the heck anybody in this movie is talking about, but I for one, your regular every day movie fan…well, I simply didn’t understand most of what anyone was saying or doing in this film, and after a while, I honestly didn’t care! Comparisons to Steven Soderbergh’s 2000 TRAFFIC are also ridiculous, as other than the superficial similarity between the two films’ styles (several stories involving many characters all overlapping and eventually somehow connecting), they have little in common as that one actually featured interesting characters, understandable plotlines and yeah, get this…well-formulated messages behind all of its jabbering.

This film seems to want to say a lot of things, but never really comes out and says much of it, so it’s up to the learned viewer to sit there, with plenty of workbooks, an encyclopedia and a trusty political science student by their side, to attempt to de-puzzle all of what writer/director Stephen Gaghan is attempting NOT to tell us. For me, I just got tired of it. I don’t mind waiting half an hour or even a full hour (like this film) before anything starts to make any sense in a movie, but you know what…it should start to make sense after that, and other than a few connections, a couple of conclusions during the film’s final 10 minutes, some basic points (there’s corruption in the oil industry, whoopdee-shit), I didn’t appreciate much of what was played out in this film and for a movie watcher, a movie-fan…well, that just plain sucks. Famed film critic Roger Ebert adored this movie, even though even he claimed not to have understood it all, and although I certainly respect anyone’s opinion to that, I need a little more out of a movie myself, especially one that features a very interesting topic, plenty of capable actors (kudos to George Clooney for his performance here) and seemingly interesting dialogue and directing. It all looked and felt good and authentic, but it ultimately left me feeling empty and angry inside. Not angry at the film’s message, but angry at its makers for not creating something more digestible to the layman – and by that, I’m not asking them to “dumb it down”, but rather, “crank up”…its coherence!

PS: Oh, and if anyone can tell me what the shit SYRIANA means…drop me a line, will ya?

(c) 2014 Berge Garabedian

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Average Rating:
7.7/10
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9/10
Mojave
Jan 6 2006, 1:50:36 AM
SYRIANA

I saw Gaghan on Charlie Rose about a month back, and Charlie asked what "Syriana" was and I can't remember the second part of it, but I remember him saying that it was a fictional country, basically an amalgum of a middle eastern country, Syria obviously, and an oil company. He said that it doesn't exist, it's never mentioned in the movie, but it's essentially where the movie takes place. Every action is in Syriana, the middle east, and oil territory. I personally loved the movie, and it is overpraised, but still one of the best of the year. All of the characters are in a confusion of money, and terroism, and greed, that motivates them. Not everying happening in the film is clear, and I'm fine with that. I'd much rather work at understanding a film like this, then be pandered to and treated like an idiot when I go to the movies.

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