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Friday, June 30, 2006

Syriana — Movie Review

Syriana offers a look into the world of the oil companies, and drives home the message that curruption runs rampant throughout the industry. I’d be lying if I even suggested that I understood every nuance of the political implications covered in the film, but the point was clear enough — the titans of the oil business will stop at nothing in pursuit of profits.

The film follows various “players” in the oil game with a pending merger of two of the largest companies forming the backdrop. From a CIA operative, to a lawyer for the oil company, an oil broker, and a forward-thinking foreign prince set to take power and try to bring democracy to his country, each faces the back-door dealings that seems to make ever reigning in the oil industry an impossibility.

Syriana is one of the more difficult films I’ve tried to review. I felt like I was working so hard to truly grasp everything, it was very hard to sit back and just watch the movie. Ultimately, I don’t think the film is all that complicated, but it makes the casual viewer work a bit too hard to get a handle on what’s going on.

George Clooney plays a fictionalized version of former CIA operative Bob Barnes. He headlines the effort to show the various personal stories on all sides of the battle for oil. However, the attempt to show that despite cultural differences people are all the same, which is discussed in the DVD extras as being a major aspect of the movie, really did not come through.

For me, Matt Damon’s character, Bryan Woodman, helped bring home the pending disasters that society’s reliance on oil has set the world up for. Despite the tragedy of losing his young son, he attempts to forge ahead to help change the power structure of the Middle East. It underlined more than anything else the importance of bringing stability to that region.

In contrast to the theme of “we’re all not as different as we think,” the sad reality of the oil business depicted in the movie came through just fine. The corruption is shown as extending to the point that the oil companies actively seek to keep the Middle East in a state of chaos, which benefits their bottom lines. Of course, the scariest reality that the movie points out is that the reliance on oil will end some day since it is an unlimited resource, and then true chaos can begin.

I hesitate to say watch that you should this film to get a better understanding of how ownership of oil is as key an element to worldwide politics as anything, and broaden your horizons. My guess is that I could watch the world news every night for a year and still not be informed enough to know if this film can do that. Nonetheless, my guess is also that it can and you should.

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