DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: SYRIANA

Friday 6 April 2007


Syriana (2005) dir. Stephan Gaghan
Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright


I’ve seen “Syriana” twice now and still I can’t say I understand the plot completely. It’s Byzantine, with politicians, agents, kings, princes, terrorists, lobbyists, and big businessmen all trying to find a way to milk money out of the Middle East. It’s a global free-market economy without global governance. All the players are fueled by their own self interests, they all have their own agenda, and unfortunately no one is in sync.

“Syriana” follows the interconnected stories of several characters to paint a picture of the complexities around Middle Eastern oil. Bennett Holiday (Jeffrey Wright) is a lobbyist investigating a merger of two American oil companies who’ve just signed a deal to drill and extract oil from Kazakhstan. Bryan Woodman (Matt Damon) plays an energy-trader consulting for an unnamed Middle Eastern country (yep, it’s so fragile over there they couldn’t name a specific country). George Clooney plays an aged CIA Agent/hitman (Bob Barnes) hired to knock out the Prince of that unnamed Middle Eastern country. Of course, these are just the big Hollywood stars. Equally significant players include Alexander Siddig playing Prince Nasir an idealistic man who believes their oil can actually do some good in his country, Christopher Plummer, Jeffrey Wright’s superior who’s pulling more strings than he appears, and Chris Cooper as the head of one of the merging oil companies.

George Clooney’s character, Bob, is the soul and moral conscience of the film. We first see him brokering a deal with Pakistani rebels to buy a U.S. missile. When Bob discovers that the missile may be going into the wrong hands, he sticks with his conscience and attempts to track it down, but his superiors could care less for his opinion and dismiss his instincts. The world has changed for Bob, in the new technology-driven global landscape, Bob is just a soldier and a pawn. We feel sorry for him. He’s a cold war agent, rendered obsolete in the modern world. He can’t function properly at home, he’s got fresh ink on his divorce papers and his son wants nothing to do with him. When he’s given the job of whacking Nasir, it reinvigorates him; he’s back on the playing field and supporting his country. But when the job goes sour and he’s exposed, the CIA cuts him loose and makes Bob the scapegoat. “Leave no man behind” is supposed to be a motto of the military, but Bob is left behind, abandoned and discarded like old trash.

Disillusionment is widespread in “Syriana”. In a geopolitical world governments blur, borders blur and patriotism is a false word. It’s all very complicated and I don’t try to understand the details, nor do you need to. The politics of oil are too strong for one or a few people to manipulate or control – despite the best efforts of our three main characters to make a difference they will always be working for the man. Enjoy.

Buy it here: Syriana

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