Reviews & Previews - Syriana

Posted on Thursday, December 29, 2005 at 05:00 PM


By: S. Tran

Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Amanda Peet
Directed by: Stephen Gaghan
Running Time: 126 Minutes
Rated: Rated R for violence and language

Oil Trafficking

Syriana will remind you of another film from a few year back called Traffic that was such a hit with the critics. In my opinion though, Syriana is the better film, possibly because the subject matter is something we rarely get a chance to explore on film.

As with Traffic, there really isn't a defined story in Syriana. It is more of a series of events in the lives of some people we are introduced to. This is perhaps the film's biggest weakness in that the events overshadow the characters. While well acted, the film covered so much ground that even after two hours we only get character sketches.

The movie revolves around the lives of two seemingly unrelated men. The first is Bob (Clooney), a covert government agent specializing in the Middle East. The second is Bryan (Damon) a young energy analyst whose main interest in the Middle East is in the black liquid flowing underneath its sands. Eventually their work brings them both together.

Clooney packed on 30 pounds to play the part. The extra weight he carried for the film definitely helped transform him from the handsome leading man into the tired, weary secret agent. Bob looks like an accountant on the outside and carries out his violent work with the same interest as a CPA might show in adding up some figures. Clooney's performance is slow and thoughtful and a little ambiguous with the result that we never really understand him, which is fitting because of the occupation of his character.

Damon does a good job as Bryan who is as idealistic as Bob is jaded. Bryan is still trying to change the world whereas Bob knows all too well that the world will never change. Its interesting watching the two characters, each working in his own way to try affect the events in the region to meet their own goals.

While you may think that a movie about the politics of Middle East oil interests wouldn't be that interesting the script and story are compelling. Be warned, the events are complicated and it takes a bit of focus to stay on top of the various plot elements, but you are rewarded as an audience. The writers and director did not dumb the movie down so there aren't any easy answers or cheap endings.

You'll have to form your own opinions on the political messages in the film for yourself. Depending on where you lean you may find agree with the rather dim view the movie has of American interests in the region or you may dismiss is as more left wing nonsense. In either case I think you will still find the something to enjoy in the story, acting and direction.

Syriana is a good investment of your time and will provide you with an excellent alternative to a certain big monkey.


3.5 stars out of 5.


NOTE: The showtimes listed on come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to