Well, I find myself finishing up with the letter “S” today. Once again, I find myself with a movie that I never saw in theaters, though I had several friends saying it was really good. So based on their recommendations, I decided to pick up a copy on the cheap when Blockbuster was going out of business. I think I might have to figure out how many of my spur of the moment Blockbuster purchases during that time period were based solely on friends’ recommendations. Anyways, let’s get down to business with today’s movie, Syriana.
The plot: CIA agent Bob Barnes is in Tehran, Iran to participate in an arms deal. After inspecting the two anti-aircraft missile for the sale, Bob notices that one of the missiles is taken into the back of the store while the other is taken outside by the two men that bought the weapons. After getting his money, Bob heads to the back to investigate what is happening with the second missile, only to be held at gunpoint as the second missile is taken away so Bob leaves out the front door, disregarding the two arms dealers as they are killed by the explosive he secretly placed inside their missile case. Meanwhile, Connex Oil is losing control of oil fields in the Middle East just as a smaller company, Killen, won drilling rights in Kazakhstan. The Connex board decides to form a merger with Killen and hire a DC law firm to help smooth the way. Among the people involved is Bennet Holiday, who is there to help smooth things over with the DOJ and help assuage anti-trust fears. Elsewhere, Bryan Woodman, an American energy analyst working in Switzerland, is ordered to attend an emir’s party and offer him the services of their company and when he says he can’t as it is his son’s birthday, his company offers to send them with him. Back in DC, Bob’s superiors are nervous as Bob keeps asking about the missile theft and has written an official memo regarding it. They promote him to a desk job in the hopes it will keep him out of trouble but Bob’s tendency to speak his mind causes problems. Elsewhere, Pakistani workers board a bus to go work at a Connex refinery only to be told they have been laid off due to the Chinese outbidding Connex for the rights to the refinery. As Saleem and his son Wasim walk back to their lodgings, Wasim tries to figure out what to do for a job. In Spain, Bryan and his family arrive at the plaza and Bryan is told the emir can’t meet with him, as he is busy meeting with some Chinese delegates, and so Bryan is forced to give his presentation to some of the emir’s representatives. As the emir and his son, Prince Meshal, show the Chinese how they can keep watch over all of the compound using their remote cameras, not noticing that one of the lights in the pool is broken. As Bryan heads back to rejoin his family, he is attracted to a commotion at the pool and discovers that his oldest son has been electrocuted. In Pakistan, Wasim continues to try and find work and is told to learn Arabic if he wants a job, but as he goes to attend the school, he ends up being beaten. In DC, Holiday attends a meeting at the DOJ, where they tell him that they feel someone in Killen had bribed the Kazakhstan officials in order to get the contracts and are trying to find out who it was in order to prosecute them. Bob is ordered to oversee the assassination of Prince Nasir, the emir’s oldest son, and is told he has been financing terrorists. Bob goes to see his friend, who is a retired agent, and is told to check in with Hezbollah when he gets to Lebanon, so that they know he isn’t working against them. Meanwhile, Bryan attends a meeting with Nasir, who offers his company $75 million in his country’s oil interests as compensation for their part in his son’s death. Bryan is upset at first, insultingly asking what he will offer for his other son, but when he learns that Nasir actually wishes to advance his country’s growth, instead of letting it stagnate like his father has done, he accepts the offer and offers Nasir some advice. Bob arrives in Lebanon but when he gets there, he finds himself grabbed and taken away to a secret meeting with the Hezbollah leader. Back in Pakistan, Wasim and his friend are approached by a man, the same man Bob saw take the missile, who begins speaking with them and tries to convince them to join him. In Lebanon, Bob meets with a mercenary named Mussawi to help him kidnap and kill Nasir. Bob heads to Beirut to oversee the operation but when he reaches his hotel room, he finds himself attacked and kidnapped by Mussawi, who proceeds to torture him and is about to cut off his head but he is stopped by Hezbollah. Back in DC, Bob’s superiors get wind of what happened and Mussawi’s threats to tell people of Bob’s attempt to kill Nasir. Wishing to keep it in the dark that the assassination was US sanctioned, they decide to blackball Bob and make him out to be a rogue agent; revoking his passports, locking him out of his computer, and starting an investigation into him. Elsewhere, Holiday finds proof of payouts from a Killen executive to Kazakhstan and confronts Danny Dalton, the man who authorized the funds. Elsewhere, Nasir learns that his father is passing him over to replace him as emir in favor of his brother, whose views more closely resemble his own as opposed to Nasir’s more progressive views, so Nasir tries to organize a coup to usurp his father’s power. Barnes speaks with his friend to find out who is the one blackballing him and arranges a meeting with Dean Whitting, the head of the law firm backing the Connex/Killen merger and a member of the CLI (Committee to Liberate Iran), and threatens his family until he agrees to arrange for Bob’s investigation to be stopped and his passports reinstated. At the same time, Holiday meets with Jimmy Pope, the head of Killen, and tells him that Dalton will not be enough to stop the DOJ’s investigation and Killen asks if the second body could be someone in his firm, to which Holiday agrees providing the name was big enough. Holiday goes with his mentor Sidney Hewitt to meet with Leeland Janus, the head of Connex, and while there, explains the situation with the DOJ and then informs him that Hewitt had arranged an illegal deal for another pipeline to occur during the sale. Hewitt is turned over to the DOJ as the second body, which stops the investigation into the merger and Leeland is honored as the “Oil Industry Man of the Year”. Meanwhile, Nasir is heading out to lead the coup and Bryan, who has been acting as an advisor, rides with him but when they are stopped by a large herd of goats, Bryan switches cars so that Nasir can ride with his family. Bob arrives in the Middle East and goes to intercept Nasir’s convoy, attempting to warn him of the assassination attempt but he is too late, as a drone strike blows up Nasir’s car, killing him and his family, and Bob as well. Meanwhile, Wasim and his friend have been radicallized and using a bomb fashioned from the anti-aircraft missile, pilot their boat towards a Connex-Killen oil tanker and blow it up. Bryan survives the blast and heads home to his family while funerals are arranged for Nasir, as well as Bob.
Syriana met with positive reviews from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 73% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Ambitious, complicated, intellectual, and demanding of its audience, Syriana is both a gripping geopolitical thriller and wake-up call to the complacent.” George Clooney suffered a spinal injury during a stunt and, due to the weight he gained for the role, he was bedridden for a month and suffered migraines, causing him to miss out on doing promotional work for Ocean’s Twelve. The movie was a modest hit at the box office, earning $94 million off of a $50 million budget
This is a good movie but I feel like it was made overly complicated and more confusing than it needed to be. The acting was good, with George Clooney (Bob) and Jeffrey Wright (Holiday) doing great jobs in their roles. Matt Damon (Bryan) was also good, though felt a little mechanical at times, while Alexander Siddig did a much better job portraying Nasir. The story was pretty good but all the different storylines that were going on made it a little confusing to follow, as they were forced to bounce around the different plots and couldn’t really focus on any one point for too long. The special effects and the drama were both effectively used throughout the movie and did help move things along, but the bouncing story line really did hurt it. A good movie but definitely something you will have to focus on in order to understand everything going on.
Rating: 4 out of 5