Film Review: Syriana

Directed by: Stephen Gaghan

Written by: Stephen Gaghan

Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jeffery Wright, Chris Cooper, Will Hurt, Mazhar Munir, Tim Blake Nelson, Amanda Peet, Christopher Plummer, Mark Strong, Alexander Siddig, Akbar Kurtha and Viola Davis

Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana is an international political thriller. The globetrotting narrative is reminiscent of his previous screenplay Traffic (2001) about the war on drugs, directed by Steven Soderberg. Syriana focuses in on another type of war, one that at this moment in time is to the very fore of global consciousness. The film examines the struggle for political power, oil and capital from an amiably neutral standpoint.

The multi-layered narrative is ambitious. It demands and warrants your attention. It spans from Marbella to Geneva, Tehran to Lebanon, Washington to Kazakhstan and all the rest in between. It highlights the corruptive powers on each. From the perspective of a scapegoated C.I.A. man (Clooney) to a conditioned young Pakistani (Munir), Syriana’s ambitious narrative attempts to cover all bases, while its heart is in the screenplays dynamic characterisation. For such a vast ensemble peace, each character is acutely drawn to represent different sides of the political argument.

George Clooney’s presence in the film does not come as a surprise. In the mid-noughties Clooney was on a streak of political driven films. A Robert Redford for our times, Clooney has spread his wings to also direct and produce films of this nature. Clooney has used his fame to speak out against the Iraq War and his political views are not only expressed through the medium of film, but also in his humanitarian endeavours.

On a basic level the film aims to make us think about the difference between moral and capital values without specifically ramming down our throats what the answer to that question should be. It does so thematically through nuclear families and in particular father-son relationships. This aspect of the film walks the tightrope of Hollywood cliché, but it manages it to balance itself.

For those who say Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper is an acceptable representation of the Iraq War, a viewing of Syriana is advised. A broader and frankly better view of what has happened in our recent past. From the high-rises to the desert, greed and revenge are the only benefactors. The cyclicality is quite chilling. Day-to-day life rolls on, but humanity is suffering.

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