SYRIANA is an over-hyped alleged thriller that attempts to explore the politics of the oil business. Featuring a star-studded cast, and the kind of lush photography that you get in advertising, here is a movie that repackages politics for the HBO generation, and fails miserably. While the movie looks great and the acting performances are all fine, the real faults lie in the conception of the movie and the script by Stephen Gaghan. Gaghan is the man behind the infinitely better flick, TRAFFIC. Like TRAFFIC, SYRIANA has a script that inter-cuts three plot strands that are loosely related. This has led some critics to claim that the movie is complex and hard to understand. Actually I had no problem following the story here. Incomprehension was not my problem.
The first major problem is that the movie tells us nothing that we did not already know about US politics, the Middle East or big business. There are no flash-bulb moments, and in many ways, the issues here are "dumbed-down". I found it a really fantastically facile, trite script by someone who clearly has very little cultural or political feel for the material he is addressing. If you want an expose of US politics, check out John Sayles' SILVER CITY. If you want insight on the Middle East go read some history. If you want to see how "everything is connected" - the platitudionous tagline to the film - go see CRASH.
The second major problem is that the movie is just plain yawn-inducing. I LOVE cinema; I love Middle Eastern politics; I love Clooney, Damon and Cooper; but even I could barely keep my eyes open. I do not ask that movies educate me - although when they claim they are going to it is nice if they live up to that promise - but I do ask that they entertain me. I want my intellectual or emotional interest to be piqued. I want laughter, tears, or provocation. SYRIANA did not deliver.
So, now the broad-brush gripes are over, here are some minor geeky gripes. 1. Why do the Pakistani muslim terrorists speak in Hindi? Granted there are Muslims in India but they speak Urdu. And while many Pakistanis do not speak Urdu as a first language, they will most likely speak Pushto or Punjabi instead. It is frickin' ironic that a movie that attempts to get under the skin of Middle Eastern politics, and establish a credible stance on these issues, can mess up on something so basic. I was, frankly, insulted. 1b. What language is George Clooney speaking when in Beirut? He is complemented on his good Arabic, and claims to be speaking Farsi, but the accent is impenetrable and unless this is some dialect, sounds nothing like Farsi. 2. It is absolutely incredible that anyone would address the an Emir in the manner in which Matt Damon addresses the Prince just after the "Marbella incident".
SYRIANA is on limited release in the US, Germany, France, Austria and UK.