“Syriana,” executive producer George Clooney’s latest cinematic offering, is being widely praised by critics as one of the best films of the year, a thinking person’s film. I hope people are thinking---first, to skip this film, and second, if they do choose to see it, to recognize its leftist message.
“Syriana” is directed by Stephen Gaghan and contains some interesting acting performances by Clooney, Matt Damon, Amanda Peet, Jeffery Wright, and Christopher Plummer. The acting is good, but the story insofar as there is one leaves a lot to be desired. It’s an “R” rated film for language and violence, particularly a Clooney torture scene you don’t want to see (I closed my eyes).
I don’t go to the movies very often, but recently I saw “Narnia” and now “Syriana.
While these two movies could not be more different in tone and message, I’d tongue-in-cheek classify both as “fantasy adventure.” I enjoyed the first movie while I nearly walked out of the second. The first encouraged my heart. The second gave me a headache.
“Syriana” offers a convoluted, difficult-to-follow, choppy storyline, about greed and corruption in the American oil business and the United States government. In the “Syriana” view, virtually everyone is corrupt, except possibly for certain poor Arabic individuals. According to the film, these people’s poverty was caused by American greed, so they have “understandably” been drawn into extremist religious groups. These extremists eventually resort to terrorist acts against American interests as, according to the movie, the only thing they can do to make their political voice heard.
The CIA gets into the corruption act by assassinating an heir to his country’s throne, apparently because he is interested in elevating his people through enlightened means and is less friendly than his brother to U.S. interests. In the end of the film, American oil tycoons receive awards and Middle Eastern religious extremists become suicide bombers. The video symbolism is hard to miss: Americans succeeded by skewering others.
Everyone turns on everyone in this film. Clooney’s character is a U.S. agent who discovers he’s been “used” by his government employer—throughout his career. Damon’s character is an energy analyst who sides with the idealist prince, apparently with no qualms about his American roots or loyalties. Wright’s character looks for closeted skeletons to make a show of due diligence and to use as leverage against people, including one of his own attorney colleagues. Peete’s character turns against her husband, while Plummer’s character is a manipulative oil man. And so it goes.
The message of this film appears to be this: “The United States government and American “Big Oil” will do absolutely anything to protect oil interests and profits, including lie, steal, assassinate, or go to war. No one in government or in business tells the truth or can be trusted.”
So you walk out of this film with your anxiety about geo-politics in the real world having just jumped several notches. You no longer feel you can believe anything anyone says. You feel used, abused, dirty, and despairing.
While there undoubtedly have been and are dishonest and unscrupulous government and business people, this film paints with a very broad brush. It feels like Oliver Stone or Michael Moore directed it rather than Stephen Gaghan. It’s a “postmodern” film in that it offers us little beyond uncertainty and angst—because truth doesn’t exist.
Nowhere in this film will you find any intelligent notation or discussion of free enterprise, the multi-varied roots of religious extremism, American patriotism, people-who-hate-America-because-America-is-prosperous, or any other non-politically correct idea.
This film not only tells its story poorly, it tells a poor story. The critical acclaim “Syriana” is receiving tells us much more about the critics’ political perspective than it does the film’s cinematic achievements.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005
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