A missile disappears in Iran, but the CIA has other problems: the heir to an Emirate gives an oil contract to China, cutting out a US company that promptly fires its immigrant workers and merges with a small firm that has landed a Kazakhstani oil contract. The Department of Justice suspects bribery, and the oil company's law firm finds a scapegoat. The CIA also needs one when its plot to kill the Emir-apparent fails. Agent Bob Barnes, the fall guy, sorts out the double cross. An American economist parlays the death of his son into a contract to advise the sheik the CIA wants dead. The jobless Pakistanis join a fundamentalist group. All roads start and end in the oil fields. Written by
The interesting novel by Robert Baer seems to tell it all about "Syriana". It is a tale that is driven by the ambition of a few unscrupulous people who will stop at nothing to achieve their goal. In a way, Mr. Baer's novel as well as the film seems to be reaffirming Niccolo Machiavelli's "The ends justify the means"
Stephen Gaghan's first major directorial job presents the story in multiple settings running at the same time, which, for a great majority of the public will prove disorienting. Mr. Gaghan has adapted for the screen material like the one in "Syriana" before, so he wasn't a stranger working in that format.
What "Syriana" presents is a sort of rat race for the control of the oil in the Persian Golf, by whatever means necessary. Ultimately, the ones in control of that commodity will dominate the world. We are given about five different narratives in the film that interplay one another in the most unexpected ways. In fact, all these different subplots have a lot more in common than really meets the eye. One could almost recommend the viewing of the film a couple of times in order for all the different parts to come together in our minds and by doing so, the viewer will see the inner mechanisms of this intricate tale of corruption, greed and power.
The cast is enormous. There are a lot of different acting styles in the film. An almost unrecognizable George Clooney plays Bob Barnes, the CIA operative fallen from grace who is instrumental in set the story in motion and who reappears at the end at the climax of the action. Jeffrey Wright does a tremendous job as the lawyer who discovers the hidden mystery in a performance that is completely different from whatever he has done before in the screen. Matt Damon plays the ambitious young man who is at the top of his profession and can help Prince Nasir with his revolutionary views about changes in his country and the Arab world. Ultimately, Wasim, the poor Pakistani guest worker makes the case for the displaced youth of that world that is willing to go ahead and commit the ultimate sacrifice.
There are also good appearances by some seasoned actors that only appear shortly. Tim Blake Nelson, Chris Cooper, Jayne Atkinson, Akbar Kurtha, William Hurt, Christopher Plummer, Robert Foxworth and the rest are seen briefly.
Robert Elswit photographed the film in the different locations and makes it look better. The music score by Alexandre Desplat is heard in the background without interrupting the action. The editing by Tim Squires works well with the action. Stephen Gaghan shows he can do well working with Mr. Baer's material and made an interesting film that while it will irritate some viewers, on the whole he had the right idea in the way to tell this story.
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