Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA, 2005. Warner Bros., Participant Media, 4M, Section Eight, FilmWorks, MID Foundation. Screenplay by Stephen Gaghan, suggested by the book See No Evil: The True Story of A Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War on Terrorism by Robert Baer. Cinematography by Robert Elswit. Produced by Jennifer Fox, Georgia Kacandes, Michael Nozik. Music by Alexandre Desplat. Production Design by Dan Weil. Costume Design by Louise Frogley. Film Editing by Tim Squyres.
Stephen Gaghan, Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Traffic, wants so much to make a film worthy of Steven Soderbergh’s drug-trade classic that he simply photocopies its cinematography and editing and hopes that the audience won’t notice the similarities. No one would notice, actually, if his screenplay were worthy of his earlier work, but Syriana is a muddled heap of brilliant moments lost among a decided lack of focus. Set in the world of the oil industry, it stars a superb George Clooney as a CIA operative whose work in the Middle East gets him shafted by his superiors when he is no longer instrumental in furthering Washington’s goals for financial gain. Matt Damon plays an oil broker who partners up with a prince (Alexander Siddig) looking to lead his family to a better partnership with the west, Jeffrey Wright (stunning as always) plays a corporate lawyer investigating a questionable merger between two oil corporations, and Mazhar Munir plays a downtrodden Pakistani worker who turns to religious zeal when the power players above him make his survival a critical issue. Gaghan never connects the dots well enough, and the film still feels like it is setting itself up well past the halfway point. It would be admirable for political reasons, but everything here was already uncovered in Fahrenheit 9/11, and Michael Moore’s impolite storytelling technique was a lot more entertaining.
Academy Award: Best Supporting Actor (George Clooney)
Nomination: Best Original Screenplay
Golden Globe Award: Best Supporting Actor (George Clooney)
Nomination: Best Original Score
Screen Actors Guild Award Nomination: Best Supporting Actor (George Clooney)