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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


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Syriana
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by Collin Souter

"I think I'm supposed to be mad about something."
3 stars

When it comes to oil, I’m kinda dumb. Well, not so dumb that I can’t fry an egg with it or cook a mean Snausage burger, but when it comes to oil for my car, I’m just dirt stupid. I don’t know what to do. It’s especially sad when I take my car in for an oil change and the mechanic screams, “Sir, would you like 10WD40-1020EZ with Fiberoptical Flapjacks!?!!?” And I just look at the plastic pint in his hand and the assured expression on his face and nod in agreement, “Yes, that would be lovely,” probably not knowing that I probably just agreed to let him clog my fuel injector with horse manure and gummi bears.

Now, along comes Stephen Gaghan’s political thriller Syriana to remind me of just how dumb I am. I think I was with the movie for about 20 minutes. Then I started to scratch my head a little. Then I was back with it. Then it lost me. Then I tried really hard to concentrate on just what the ding-dang heck everyone was talking about and how the characters related to each other. Then I realized that in order to fully comprehend it all, I would have to backtrack to the scenes where I got lost and try to decode them. After a while, I sort of gave up and ate my gummi bears.

Gaghan’s movie tells the story about the global oil industry. I know, I’m lost too, but I’ll try to convey this as best as the press release from which I’m borrowing storyline notes will let me. George Clooney plays a CIA operative who gets chased around, tortured and thrown into conspiracies beyond his control. Matt Damon plays an oil broker whose son has just died, but who ends up partnering with a Gulf prince. Meanwhile, a corporate lawyer (Jeffrey Wright) questions a merger between two oil companies, while in Pakistan, a teenager falls prey to an influential cleric who recruits men into taking on a deadly crusade against the oil companies.

That’s the simplest I can make it for you (thank God for presskits!). Gaghan clearly wants to do for the oil industry what his similarly patterned screenplay for Traffic did for drug dealing. Unfortunately, Gaghan seems to think you already know the basics of oil trading (sorry, I’m dumb) and that you won’t mind if he talks a little over your head for a bit. To smooth out the narrative in case you don’t get the gist of what makes oil trading so awful, he books Tim Blake Nelson to give an out-of-nowhere speech that bears a striking resemblance to Michael Douglas’ “Greed” speech in Wall Street, only instead using the word “corruption.”

I know Syriana means to be important and I know I should care about the fact that corporations get too greedy, the CIA won’t own up to their mistakes and that millions die so we can get cheap oil. Heck, for all I know, Syriana blows the lid off everything and it will become a hot-topic movie amongst billionaires everywhere. Finally, a movie for them! The rest of us will have to sit there and try to feel smart when it’s over by saying things like, “George Clooney sure gained some weight for this role” and “hhmm, that’s interesting” and “it’s sad what we do for oil,” even though we’re secretly hoping no one will ask us why this-that-or-the-other happened.

I’ve decided for myself that it’s okay to feel dumb when watching this movie. I’ve talked to several highly educated and well-versed critics afterwards and they felt dumb too. I know I’m supposed to feel angry and enlightened about something and I know a movie should be made about the corruption and violence that comes with trading oil, but I just walked out feeling lost. If nothing else, I can at least make a statement with what message I did come away with by the film’s end: I will never eat popcorn cooked with canola oil ever again! So many lives lost…

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=13517&reviewer=233
originally posted: 12/09/05 15:06:58
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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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