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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


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Syriana
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by Laura Kyle

"You'll never look at an SUV the same way again..."
5 stars

It didn't come as much of a shock when I learned that Syriana's writer/director Stephen Gagham was also responsible for the award-winning screenplay to Traffic. Traffic is to drugs as Syriana is to oil.

What's most surprising about Syriana is not the ridiculously talented actors that just. won't. quit. popping up on the screen or the film's incendiary character -- but the upsetting realization of how little the typical moviegoer, the typical American, knows about what's going down in the White House, the oil companies, and in foreign governments.

Syriana jumps around from location to location, character to character, without so much as a protagonist for the audience to hook on to or subtitles to guide them. But once you've sorted through the cumbersome plot in your head, you figure it out real quick: oil is the root of all evil.

Gaghan's movie is quite dry; it almost operates as a pseudo-documentary. And indeed, it was based on a nonfictional book (*shudder*). I got the eerie feeling that everything I was watching onscreen was third-hand testimony.

Basically, George Clooney schemes to rob a casino.

Oh no, wait. That's the other movie starring him and Matt Damon. Anyhow, let me tell you a little about the plot. Cuz Syriana definitely could benefit from a theater style playbill with the order of scenes and brief plot descriptions listed, so, arm yourself with the following on your way to the movie:

Clooney is Bob Barnes, a distraught CIA guy who's starting to figure out the shady motives of the government he's been pulling jobs for over the years. Damon has a gig in "Energy" and he partners up with a wannabe Middle Eastern king (Alexander Siddig) who's not willing to fork over his country so easily to the US anymore. Jeffrey Wright, in probably my favorite storyline, is a corporate lawyer tangled up with two US oil companies who are about to merge. Oh, and there's also a subplot about vulnerable Middle Eastern youth.

Syriana takes such a holisitc look at the intricate world of the oil biz -- the national economies that would collapse without it, the corporations that take advantage of this, and the cultural context that makes things all the more complicated -- that it's almost ad nauseum...a tad overwhelming. At times, it's as though you've got top secret documents in your hands but it's all in a code you don't understand.

And yet, this is a big reason I dig Syriana so much. I have the desire to seek more clarity about all these different levels of corruption it supposes. Much like Hotel Rwanda, the backstory isn't absolutely necessary -- just witnessing a cinematic take on the current state of affairs is pretty startling all by itself. Gaghan simply lets the facts speak for themselves, I don't think I ever felt even remotely preached to.

Hey, and did I mentioned it's well-done? It is. Don't let the stone-faced (and often confusing!) plot distract you from that. I can pick out more than a handful of scenes that are just astonishing. And the cast -- I mean, wow. But what else would you expect from the likes of Clooney, Damon, Christopher Plummer, and Chris Cooper?

Hard for me to knock a political film that doesn't feel the need to defend itself with anything more than a grueling realism. For some, it may not have the powerful impact of a more fucused narrative willing to shout out its message rather than imply it over and over and over again...but Syriana is the kind of movie I'll be recommending to anyone and everyone.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13517&reviewer=369
originally posted: 12/09/05 16:13:01
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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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