Syriana’s morale makes you think of gas in every step on your accelerator and the LPG you use when you cook your food. As a modern issue-related film, this political drama manages to turn one of the most controversial topics in the world into a challenging, thought-provoking human story of the world`s grandest schemes, powerful companies and most dangerous people. It generates a debate on who the real terrorists are in the midst of international chaos, politics and corruption.
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America sharing a part of being an actual terrorist in this story is a tough and commendable endeavor for the filmmakers. Though the film has a disclaimer of it being a fictionalized story, it really gives room for the people to ponder on various issues in a balanced fashion — of things that are good, bad or in the shades of gray. It makes an understatement on how power and oppression kills the society.
Director Stephen Gaghan presents a brutally realistic action picture. The timely political tones of the film make intriguing images from well-composed shots and camera maneuvering. Gaghan knows his shots well.
Having a really slow and complicated start, it takes the risk of losing its audience in its interweaving, multiple and parallel storylines. Moreover, it is quite straining to understand the bits and pieces of information. The storyline is populated with so many characters that at certain points tend to leave little time for the audience to breathe. But skillfully woven as it is, it becomes successful in providing an intelligent dissection of the business, politics, emotions and conspiracies of the global oil industry.
As the story progresses, the execution becomes good enough to hold the attention of the audience although the first part tends to be quite confusing and overflowing with information. Overall, with the densely packed story and the issues about oil, war and global capitalism as its very foundation, this film both edifies and entertains.
The interlocking plots and multilayered stories are served well by the cast. I admire the surprising looks of the bearded and really bloated George Clooney to play his role as Bob Barnes — an exploited CIA operative who uncovers the disturbing truth about the work he has devoted his life to. Matt Damon gives a convincing performance as energy analyst Bryan Woodman who suffers from a family tragedy and later finds redemption in his work under his new goldmine, Prince Nasir.
Alexander Siddig as an idealistic Gulf prince gives a distinctive message to such idealism and possibilities in real-life situations. Jeffrey Wright as Washington corporate lawyer Bennett Holiday effectively faces a moral dilemma as he gets immersed deeper and deeper into the corruption of the two merging powerful U.S. oil companies. Mazhar Munir as Wasim Khan, a teenage Pakistani migrant worker who becomes a yielding recruit to be a suidide bomber, gives a sympathetic appeal to the audience being a symbol of an oppressed young worker. From the major to the supporting and even the minor characters, they all contribute to the vast and complex system that powers the global oil industry. And their summed up acts create a great impact in the whole world.
A minor bothering thing about the presentation of the story is how easy the assassinations and bombings are accomplished. From the assassination of Prince Nasir to the suicide bombing of big American oil spots courtesy of Wasim and his company, it is as if these powerful giants don`t give tight defense in their own fortresses. The bodyguards seem to act so lame and the technological defenses seem so unbecoming that it becomes too easy to make the tragedies happen — the killing being as easy as describing it in words when it is supposed to be very tough and complicated.
The consequences on the fierce pursuit for wealth and power give a troubling vision of how terrorism and idealism occur in our times. Indeed, the bitter truth is difficult to absorb and difficult to accept. As a moral message movie minus a too cheesy or a too action-packed presentation, it effectively leaves us shocked and thinking.
If you`re sick of recycled Hollywood stuff, try this ambitious, complicated, intellectual, gripping, poignant and mind-stretching film that is crafted with dangerous conviction and skill on issues about oil, money and modern international relations. If you enjoy complicated plots, politics, or stories that reveal and enlighten the audience on background events happening in the Middle East, the superpowers, and the oppressed, Syriana should be on top of your brewing list.
After watching this film, the next time you turn the car ignition or open the gas stove, you might think of Syriana.