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Syriana (2005)

R  |   |  Drama, Thriller  |  9 December 2005 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 104,357 users   Metascore: 76/100
Reviews: 623 user | 357 critic | 40 from Metacritic.com

A politically-charged epic about the state of the oil industry in the hands of those personally involved and affected by it.



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Won 1 Oscar. Another 13 wins & 27 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Nicky Henson ...
Sydney Hewitt
Nicholas Art ...
Riley Woodman
Leland Janus
Bryan's Boss


American oil companies Connex and smaller Killen are undergoing a merger, the new company named Connex-Killen. The move is in response to Connex losing a number of oil fields in the Persian Gulf region as Prince Nasir Al-Subaai, his country's foreign minister, and the oldest son of the Emir and thus the heir apparent to the throne, signed a contract with the Chinese instead. As Killen somehow managed to get the contract for the oil fields in Kazahkstan, the merger would give Connex-Killen additional control of the industry in the Middle East. Connex's retained law firm, headed by Dean Whiting, assigns Bennett Holiday to demonstrate to the US Department of Justice that due diligence has been done to allow the merger to proceed i.e. that the merger would not break any antitrust regulations. The US government is unhappy with Prince Nasir's decision to award the contract to the Chinese, and in combination with issues around illegal weapons, the CIA assigns field agent Bob Barnes, who has ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Everything is connected


Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:




| | | | |

Release Date:

9 December 2005 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

See No Evil  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$50,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$374,502 (USA) (25 November 2005)


$50,815,288 (USA) (14 April 2006)

Company Credits

Production Co:

, ,  »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Michelle Monaghan originally had a substantial role in the film, playing Miss USA who becomes involved with a rich Arab oilman. But her entire sub-plot was cut when the film seemed too long and complicated for review audiences. See more »


(at arouns 3 mins) The scene is supposed to be located in Tehran, but on the license plate of Bob's car it is misspelled as Nehran (one dot failing). In Iranian movies and serials, cars have white license plates with all characters in one line, but this license plate is yellow with the text written on two lines. The Arabic numerals 4, 5 and 6 are different from the Persian numerals; this license plate shows an Arabic 4 and 6. See more »


[first lines]
Arash: Bobby, where have you been?
See more »

Crazy Credits

(Closing statement) While inspired by a non-fiction work, this motion picture and all of the characters and events portrayed in it (except for incidental archival footage), are fictional. See more »


Referenced in Stevie TV: Episode #1.6 (2012) See more »


Wasp Nest
Written by Matt Berninger (as Matthew Donald Berninger) and Aaron Dessner (as Aaron Brooking Dessner)
Performed by The National
Courtesy of Brassland
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

The Price We Pay
12 December 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"Syriana" is a blistering, powerful film about the degree to which governments and corporate conglomerates place the ambition to control the world's oil supply above the well being of their citizens and employees. In this game, there are only bad guys, and what separates the villains from the protagonists is not a question of who's good and who's bad, but rather how bad each is willing to be.

So maybe "Syriana" doesn't tell us anything new. But that doesn't mean its points aren't worth making again and again. And though it is complicated, and I'm not going to pretend I followed every detail of its intricate plot, it's not *that* hard to follow. Stephen Gaghan is a good writer, and he provides a nice summary of the film's action in its final moments.

What emerges from this tangled puzzle is a web of corruption and self-interest, all fueled by the need for oil. In one plot thread, the men behind two soon-to-merge oil companies will stop at nothing to make the merger go through, since the new company will be one of the most powerful in the world. In another thread, the law firm representing the company proves that it's eager to cash in on the company's new economic success. Meanwhile, a power struggle between the two sons of an aging king in an unspecified Middle Eastern country (though Saudi Arabia is obviously suggested) has attracted the attention of the American government, operating through the CIA. America (read American business) has a vested interest in which of the king's sons succeeds him to the throne: It doesn't want the reform-minded eldest son, whose priorities will be building a country to benefit his own people; it wants instead the younger son, who will continue to relegate his country to a cosy spot in America's hip pocket and take its orders directly from the president of the USA. And in the film's most chilling plot strand, we see how the struggle for oil feeds the radical Islam movement in the Middle East, providing young men with a feeling of brotherhood and righteousness in the face of a region they feel has turned its back on them in favor of big business and Western corruption.

"Syriana" is tense, fast and furious. Following it can admittedly be somewhat exhausting, but if you pay very close attention to the first hour or so, as each story is introduced and the relationships between characters become clear, the second half of the movie is easier to digest.

I disagree with other comments here that the characters aren't developed or that the acting is unimpressive. On the contrary, I think all of the actors create extremely nuanced, compelling characters, a challenging task given the fact that none of them are allowed more than a minute or so at a time to feed us information about themselves. A movie like this could easily fall prey to filling itself with a bunch of stock villains, all cocked eyebrows and facial mannerisms rather than full-bodied characterizations, and the fact that it avoids this is a tribute to both Gaghan and the cast. And hats off to the editor on this movie, who had perhaps the most daunting task of the year.

2005 has been full of terse, important films, fresh in their immediacy. There have been a small number of sensational, tough, thought-provoking films instead of a larger batch of more mediocre ones, as has been the case recently. "Syriana" is one of the best movies of the year: it's angry, yet it's not hopeless. I hope Americans see this movie. At this time of year, when people are trampling each other in malls in order to be first in line for Christmas sales, I hope they remember that the vast wealth of America frequently comes at the sake of people all over the world who will never have a fraction of the comfort those in our country take for granted.

Grade: A

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