Thursday, February 09, 2006


Based loosely on real life CIA agent Robert Baer's experiences in the Persian Gulf, and brought to the big screen by Traffic scribe Stephen Gaghan, Syriana tells the tale of extremely shady dealings, politically and economically, of the oil industry. It takes on the entire vertical chain, from the Arab Emirs, the profit driven businessmen, the corrupt politicians, the clandestine networks, down to the alienated worker, the determined terrorist, and even as high as the top political office of the USA.

It's no wonder that many have called this film anti-American, and pro-Arab. But in the way it's presented, you can't help but nod in the film's direction for daring to discuss and suggest what it says at point blank. It's serious, no holds barred, and brilliant.

George Clooney won a Golden Globe for best supporting actor as CIA operative Robert Barnes. Yes, supporting, as there are so many characters in this movie, each with almost equal screen time, there isn't just one protagonist's viewpoint, but a myriad of others. So many different emotions of the characters are evoked, and the actors all delivered them well. Much has been said of paunchy Clooney and his beard and all, but don't let that distract you from his performance as the pawn in the entire game, and from noteworthy others.

Everything's related, and everyone's connected. You'll have to sit through it very attentively, and pay attention to almost every line of dialogue to appreciate the very rich and complex story. It helps though, with both English and Mandarin subtitles, for you to read what your ears have missed.

But perhaps what struck me most, were the sections on the unidentified Gulf country, with the challenge for power in the changing of the guard, and the focus on the individual downtrodden migrant worker, who through misguided teachings, finds himself on the forefront of the war on terror. It cut close to probably what could have happened, and the reasons behind it happening. And with so many suggestions on the wheelings and dealings of the corporate world, its effect on governments, the oil industry in general, the quest for insatiable power, US foreign policy, this film is loaded with political "big picture" firepower.

Once you're through with the movie, if you haven't been reading current affairs in between the lines, perhaps this "fictional" story might just spur you to not take things verbatim, and spark that conspiracy theorist in you. Highly recommended stuff.

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