- Stephen Gaghan
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Thursday, February 23, 2006
Writer-director Stephen Gaghan, responsible for the script of Traffic (2000), is an expert at weaving parallel storylines with a subject in common. In this case, it’s the influence of oil in corporate, political and espionage worlds. The script poses as fiction, suggested by Robert Baer’s book “See no evil: The true story of a ground soldier in the CIA’s war on terrorism”. Three main storylines compose the whole: CIA operative Bob Barnes (George Clooney) finds in his former allies dreaded antagonism as he unwillingly threatens more powerful interests; Bennett Holiday (Jeffrey Wright) is a lawyer in charge of investigating a merger between two titanic oil companies, Connex and Killen; and Prince Nasir Al-Subaai (Alexander Siddig) defends his idealistic ideas for the management of his country’s oil, without much—if any—support.
But there are many more subplots involved, the most poignant being that of an energy analyst (Matt Damon) who advises Prince Al-Subaai and deals with a terrible loss at the same time, taking advantage of it for his own good; a personal struggle between success and family ensues. We get into the subject of the merger as well, with Christopher Plummer and Chris Cooper playing two men involved in indirect and direct manners respectively, both very benefited by it anyhow.
The focus jumps around the globe, from the Middle East to Europe to the United States like it’s nothing, making a statement about globalization. Few characters stop for a moment to think about their personal lives, which is a metaphor of the dehumanization of capitalism. And what’s worse, whoever takes a humanistic or family-oriented approach in his professional life is punished.
Does that make this a downbeat movie? Not quite. The theme is already sad, but it’s real, and to see some people still caring about the most basic values is refreshing. That’s what makes George Clooney’s character so memorable, and even though his performance is not exactly the best of the year, his presence is indelible and sure worth praising and awarding.
The rest of the cast is uniformly good. I particularly enjoyed Siddig’s performance, as he ends up winning the audience completely, while not being necessarily likable at first; Amanda Peet is a knockout as Damon’s wife; and Christopher Plummer is a pleasure as ever.
Gaghan’s hand in the direction doesn’t feel too intrusive, and Robert Elswit’s cinematography is a striking job. Good subtle music by Alexandre Desplat, too.
Dense but entertaining, with a classic tragic feel to it, Syriana has much to offer, even though in a nutshell it’s much simpler than meets the eye.
“You’re the Canadian.”
Gon C Curiel en Twitter | CriticSociety en Twitter | CriticSociety en Facebook
Share on Facebook | Share on Twitter