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Overall Rating
3.47

Awesome: 24.46%
Worth A Look30.94%
Average: 19.42%
Pretty Bad: 17.27%
Total Crap: 7.91%

12 reviews, 67 user ratings



Syriana
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by U.J. Lessing

"A Study of Petroleum-Based Initiatives"
4 stars

Making a successful movie about manipulation and oil is like writing a dissertation about love and art: the topic appears way too broad. However Stephen Gaghan pulls it off by presenting an interesting menagerie of characters, a myriad of locations and a screenplay that overestimates rather than underestimates the audience’s intelligence.

The film begins as the corporate oil goliath Connex prepares to merge with Killen, a smaller oil company with drilling rights in Kazakhstan. This impending union stirs up political and social dust as everyone scrambles for stability and control.

Enter the players. Lawyer Bennett Holliday (Jeffrey Wright) investigates the merger. As Bennett learns the true nature of both companies, he quickly recognizes that the only thing he will be able to accomplish is his own self-promotion, and at the cost of his morality.

Middle-aged CIA operative Bob Barnes (George Clooney) covertly battles terrorism in the Middle East and thinks he comprehends the Arab world. He quickly learns that this culture and the CIA are rapidly changing. Barnes watches in bewilderment as his own existence becomes more and more foreign.

Energy consultant Bryan Woodman (Matt Damon) consciously exploits a personal tragedy to gain an important advisory position with the reform-minded Prince Nasir Al-Subaai (Alexander Siddig), much to the horror and disgust of his grieving wife, Julie (Amanda Peet.) Woodman envisions a new and enlightened Middle East and chooses to put his principals before his family with unexpected results.

Young migrant worker, Wasim Ahmed Khan (Mazhar Munir) loses his job working in the Prince’s oil fields. With no other work available and a bleak future ahead of him, Wasim becomes enamored with an extremist Muslim cleric. Of all the storylines, this one was the most simplistic; however, while it is easy to predict the conclusion of Khan’s story, the emotional punch isn’t diminished in the slightest.

The minor characters in these four narratives also struggle to find places for themselves in a rapidly changing world. Some characters are ruthless and power-oriented while others believe they are manipulators only to find themselves at the mercy of someone else’s desires. The conclusion reveals their fates.

“Syriana” is at times difficult to follow. There are too many unnecessary minor characters, the film’s locations have a tendency to blend together, and many conversations are cryptic and riddled with lingo. Characters make specific references to people, places and events that will fly over the viewers’ heads like a gaggle of Canadian Geese. To make matters worse, scenes are often cropped, diffuse, and interrupted.

Yet all of these frustrations also add to an intense and very real atmosphere. Unlike less intelligent thrillers, “Syriana” never seems artificial. The films political view is that oil-minded corporations with the support of the United States government aggressively exploit Arab nations while simultaneously turning a blind eye to the suffering they cause, and the filmmakers’ message comes through clearly without seeming trite or simplistic.

“Syriana” has been described by some as derivative of “Traffic,” and while both films share a similar narrative structure and focus on the power struggle over a substance that affects a global population, “Syriana” is considerably more engaging, original and important. At 126 minutes long, “Syriana” left me desiring a longer running time.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=13517&reviewer=396
originally posted: 12/07/05 15:01:07
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User Comments

11/17/14 Kev J Post -911 powerplay? So where was Israel's hand? 4 stars
8/09/10 PAUL SHORTT ENGROSSING, WELL MADE DRAMA WITH A GREAT STAR PERFORMANCE 4 stars
7/24/10 bagwell5 Really good film. Need to see twice to get it. 4 stars
7/06/09 R Lan Too many storylines. I have no idea why Clooney won an Oscar for this role! 2 stars
5/04/09 Joe Smaltz What the hell was that? 1 stars
9/05/08 Pokejedservo Overrated and feel a bit too long but has had plenty of good aspects as well. 3 stars
7/30/08 the dork knight Hey look, it's Dr. bashir from Deep Space Nine. Awesome. Add 1 more star. 4 stars
7/12/08 Sam Very good ..too long though .. 4 stars
3/03/08 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
3/02/07 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
11/08/06 BG so happy to see I was not the only one who did not understand this film! 1 stars
9/23/06 joesurf i feel that this movie can be watched backwards and it would confuse me just the same. 2 stars
9/21/06 Shelby This is a piece of Americana that should not go unnoticed. 5 stars
9/17/06 Loop the gab not viewer-friendly but containing important themes 3 stars
8/25/06 Been There Done That Politically motivated, unrealistic, disingenuous, horse hockey 1 stars
8/15/06 John Watson Completely incomprehensible and alienating. I suddenly love Big Oil. 1 stars
7/18/06 Monday Morning Why were story, characters and interworkings so obtuse? Still was way above average. 4 stars
7/17/06 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
7/12/06 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
6/08/06 Barry Very rare to find a good movie with such realism like this, I LOVED IT! 5 stars
4/18/06 matt it was ok, I didn't understand it all though 3 stars
4/15/06 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
3/18/06 MP Bartley Not as complex as people say. Engrossing, but tough to love. 4 stars
3/13/06 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
2/28/06 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
2/17/06 Soha Molina average 3 stars
2/10/06 elendil Rent it with a friend so you can hit pause and discuss to keep up 5 stars
2/05/06 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
1/23/06 ajay I think I'm sorta intelligent, but I walked out confused and was relieved it was over. 2 stars
1/17/06 marini nielazaya like Collin Souter, I felt pretty stupid after watching it, but I think it was an important 4 stars
1/13/06 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
12/20/05 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
12/18/05 ownerofdajoint A brilliant depiction of the malevolence created my mankind's super dependence on petroleum 5 stars
12/17/05 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
12/16/05 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
12/15/05 Ryan Great cast, good idea, but not well developed. 3 stars
12/15/05 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
12/14/05 dick runman confusing and sometimes boring 3 stars
12/11/05 James Wimmers I seldom ask for my money back 1 stars
12/11/05 Bentable ZzZzZ 2 stars
12/11/05 Mark Green 2 stars
12/11/05 varyouga putting politics aside, the story and character development was complete crap. boring 1 stars
12/10/05 Sergio Pretentous and confusing 2 stars
12/07/05 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
11/30/05 Booyah Boy If you ever wondered why the US is so hated... 5 stars
11/27/05 Gary Savatsky Glib, anti american, superficial 2 stars
11/24/05 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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