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Overall Rating
3.47

Awesome: 24.46%
Worth A Look30.94%
Just Average: 19.42%
Pretty Crappy: 17.27%
Sucks: 7.91%

12 reviews, 67 user ratings



Syriana
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by EricDSnider

"If you're smarter than I am, you might really enjoy this movie."
4 stars

I'm no dummy. I hold a college degree. I read the newspaper every day. I passed a "Jeopardy!" audition, for crying out loud. Yet I watched every single minute of "Syriana" and came out of it with nothing more than a foggy notion of what it was about.

Oh, I know what it's "about," I guess. It's about the oil industry. But the plot is so labyrinthine, the characters so numerous, the connections so fleetingly explained, that constant vigilance is required if one expects to have even a basic grasp of what's going on. You go out for popcorn and you're doomed. This movie shouldn't come with a rating, it should come with a syllabus.

Is this a flaw? Not necessarily. In chatting with others who saw the film the same time I did, I find that it IS possible to understand exactly what's going on, because some of my colleagues did. So apparently it's not the movie's fault that I couldn't follow it; it's mine.

It was written and directed by Stephan Gaghan, who won an Oscar for his screenplay for "Traffic," a film to which "Syriana" is easily compared. Where "Traffic" examines the war on drugs from a variety of angles, "Syriana" does the same with the oil industry. "Syriana" offers no exposition. We are dropped into each scene cold and expected to catch up by paying attention. We are given brief glimpses of a few characters' personal lives -- sometimes so brief and obligatory they are laughable -- but mostly the focus is on their work. In fact, I can offer the same criticism of "Syriana" that I had for "Traffic": There is no reason to feel attached or relate to any of these people. It all feels so impersonal.

At the center are two American oil companies, Connex and Killen, that wish to merge. The deal is being overseen by the U.S. Attorney's office, represented by Bennett Holiday (Jeffrey Wright). There seems to be something fishy about the merger, but corruption, we are told, is standard in the oil industry.

The spokes on the story's hub include Matt Damon as an energy analyst named Bryan Woodman who lives in Switzerland and has a working relationship with Iran's Prince Nasir (Alexander Siddig), who may one day be the emir; George Clooney as a CIA operative who does a good deal of top-secret and shady work for the U.S. government; Chris Cooper as the head of Killen; and Christopher Plummer as Bennett Holiday's superior. For good measure, there are Pakistani working-class men who lose their jobs because of Connex and subsequently turn to radical Islam fundamentalism.

The central question is whether the Connex/Killen merger is illegal -- the resulting company would be the 23rd largest economy in the world -- and whether it matters if it is. The film is a political thriller, and a thick, beefy one at that, but it's hard to be thrilled when you don't understand why anything is happening.

I'm giving the film a "recommended" grade because it's well-shot and convincingly acted, and because I think there are things lurking in it that would emerge with a second viewing. Those who have lavished great praise on the film either were among my colleagues who managed to grasp it all on the first try, or else they're pretending to get it because they don't want to look stupid. Me, I have no problem looking stupid: I have no idea what's going on in this movie.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13517&reviewer=247
originally posted: 12/08/05 19:33:46
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User Comments

11/16/14 Kev J Post -911 powerplay? So where was Israel's hand? 4 stars
8/08/10 PAUL SHORTT ENGROSSING, WELL MADE DRAMA WITH A GREAT STAR PERFORMANCE 4 stars
7/23/10 bagwell5 Really good film. Need to see twice to get it. 4 stars
7/05/09 R Lan Too many storylines. I have no idea why Clooney won an Oscar for this role! 2 stars
5/03/09 Joe Smaltz What the hell was that? 1 stars
9/04/08 Pokejedservo Overrated and feel a bit too long but has had plenty of good aspects as well. 3 stars
7/29/08 the dork knight Hey look, it's Dr. bashir from Deep Space Nine. Awesome. Add 1 more star. 4 stars
7/11/08 Sam Very good ..too long though .. 4 stars
3/02/08 ladavies Very complex, not sure I really understood everything. 4 stars
8/13/07 Annonomiss A smart person's thriller. Paid attention to get all the plot. Couldn't stand the torture! 3 stars
5/02/07 R.W.Welch Murky machinations in the weird world of the Middle East. Good, if a shade overplotted. 4 stars
3/01/07 Dan Nice to watch a movie where you have to think for a change. 5 stars
12/24/06 danielle Movie for rich people.Disgusting oil/poli peeps. 3 stars
11/07/06 BG so happy to see I was not the only one who did not understand this film! 1 stars
9/22/06 joesurf i feel that this movie can be watched backwards and it would confuse me just the same. 2 stars
9/20/06 Shelby This is a piece of Americana that should not go unnoticed. 5 stars
9/16/06 Loop the gab not viewer-friendly but containing important themes 3 stars
8/24/06 Been There Done That Politically motivated, unrealistic, disingenuous, horse hockey 1 stars
8/14/06 John Watson Completely incomprehensible and alienating. I suddenly love Big Oil. 1 stars
7/17/06 Monday Morning Why were story, characters and interworkings so obtuse? Still was way above average. 4 stars
7/16/06 JenDenmark If you are super intelligent, then you will admit that it's crap! 1 stars
7/16/06 Wiseman You have to be a Intellegent superhuman to understand this one, dont watch if u ar dumb 1 stars
7/15/06 MikeDenmark Utterly intelligent & brilliant! Shows something about the workings of politics. 5 stars
7/11/06 MickT If you don't get it or find dull, the you are just plain DUMB! 5 stars
6/25/06 nathan excellent, complicated, powerful, well acted, but not as good as "traffic" 4 stars
6/23/06 The Talking Elbow Movie is highly disjointed Hollywood tripe that goes over your head almost on purpose. 1 stars
6/07/06 Barry Very rare to find a good movie with such realism like this, I LOVED IT! 5 stars
4/17/06 matt it was ok, I didn't understand it all though 3 stars
4/14/06 Steve Newman Great film - dont get drunk before you watch it - apr 06 4 stars
3/31/06 Brianna Holden Worst Jane Austen adaptation ever. Chaos of chaosses. 1 stars
3/17/06 MP Bartley Not as complex as people say. Engrossing, but tough to love. 4 stars
3/12/06 Roderick Cromar Gripping. I'll have to buy the book to discover what happened. 4 stars
3/04/06 HH Very accurate in the world it depicts, not an easy romcom in all regards. 5 stars
2/27/06 john bale Thought provoking though complex plot should concern us all. Clooney excells again. 4 stars
2/18/06 rich kramer the comments of other reviewers who felt it was not viewer friendly reflected my reactions! 2 stars
2/16/06 Soha Molina average 3 stars
2/09/06 elendil Rent it with a friend so you can hit pause and discuss to keep up 5 stars
2/04/06 BertRito I had no idea what was going on, yet somehow it was still OK. 3 stars
1/23/06 Donna A simple story made unnecessarily complicated. Dreary and depressing. Don't waste your time 2 stars
1/22/06 ajay I think I'm sorta intelligent, but I walked out confused and was relieved it was over. 2 stars
1/16/06 marini nielazaya like Collin Souter, I felt pretty stupid after watching it, but I think it was an important 4 stars
1/12/06 Sunny "Nice Try but NO." 2 stars
12/31/05 Faustus Smart, fast-paced and current with excellent writing, directing and acting. Fantastic film. 5 stars
12/30/05 Agent Sands Well-made, well-acted, but you've got to have a knowledge for the subject matter to follow. 4 stars
12/29/05 jcjs excellent, i even understood most of it the first time...fine work..a waring too 5 stars
12/23/05 Dee Sewell Boring not a thriller 2 stars
12/19/05 Pete Phelan rates in the all-time top 100 (even if you have to see it twice - I did) 5 stars
12/19/05 T.C. Fucking awesome 5 stars
12/17/05 ownerofdajoint A brilliant depiction of the malevolence created my mankind's super dependence on petroleum 5 stars
12/16/05 jeff have 2 b from the middle east to understand this movie. 5 stars
12/16/05 KingNeutron Interminable, brutal, stultifying, and Confusing. 2 stars
12/15/05 MV Where do the producers get the money for such an awful movie. Was the studio asleep? 1 stars
12/15/05 John Interesting, but no new info about our oil-based foreign policy. 4 stars
12/14/05 Ryan Great cast, good idea, but not well developed. 3 stars
12/14/05 millersxing Only thing "The Insider" or "Traffic" have on "Syriana" is more familiar subject matter. 5 stars
12/14/05 David That makes two of us. Couldn't agree more. 4 stars
12/13/05 dick runman confusing and sometimes boring 3 stars
12/10/05 James Wimmers I seldom ask for my money back 1 stars
12/10/05 Bentable ZzZzZ 2 stars
12/10/05 Mark Green 2 stars
12/10/05 varyouga putting politics aside, the story and character development was complete crap. boring 1 stars
12/09/05 Sergio Pretentous and confusing 2 stars
12/06/05 Christine Hill ~ ClooneyNetwork.com Incredible! Thought Provoking. 5 stars
12/05/05 Carolyn Interesting to watch unfold but doesn't leave any impact on you 4 stars
11/29/05 Booyah Boy If you ever wondered why the US is so hated... 5 stars
11/26/05 Gary Savatsky Glib, anti american, superficial 2 stars
11/23/05 Todd Corruption? In the Oil business? I had no idea. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  23-Nov-2005 (R)
  DVD: 20-Jun-2006

UK
  03-Mar-2006

Australia
  16-Feb-2006




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