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Syriana (R)

Release Date: November 23rd, 2005 (NYC-Angelika Film Center and Loews Lincoln Square)
December 9th, 2005 (Wide) by Warner Brothers Pictures.
The Cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Cooper, William Hurt, Tim Blake Nelson, Amanda Peet, Christopher Plummer, Alexander Siddig, Mazhar Munir.
Directed by Stephen Gaghan.

BASIC PREMISE: A merger of two big oil companies, Killeen and Connex, affects the lives of many people, including CIA operative Bob (Clooney), Prince Nasir (Siddig), corporate lawyer Bennett (Wright), and energy analyst Bryan (Damon).

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: With such a great ensemble cast, you would never think you could be bored by Syriana . Think again. The plot begins very complex and gradually becomes even more complex and mysterious. Writer-director Stephen Gaghan takes a compelling, timely idea about corruption within the oil trade industry, but heís simply a bad storyteller. The most engaging storyline is that Bob must assassinate Prince Nasir in Beirut. Once there, he gets blindfolded and tortured. Although itís mildly interesting to watch what the inside of the oil trade industry might be like, it would have been nice to have a plot thatís slightly more coherent and easier to follow. There are certainly many different pieces in this intricate puzzle. In a good mystery, youíre allowed to put together some the pieces of the puzzle along the way, which makes it more fun and suspenseful. However, in Syriana , none of the pieces seem to fit, even after the confusing ending. On a positive note, the production values are terrific, including the musical score and the cinematography. Itís also worth mentioning that all the scenes were shot on location to enhance the realistic feel. However, the risky editing jumps from storyline to storyline worked well in Traffic , which Gaghan also wrote, but here it creates more confusion, nausea without any thrills.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: The issues of greed, corruption, and abuse of power come up throughout Syriana , but none of them are as profound or insightful as they should be.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Confusing plot and not enough tension/suspense.


THE BOTTOM LINE: An inaccessible, headache-inducing plot with a great ensemble cast, and beautiful cinematography, but, above all, its weak script fails to generate any suspense to hold your attention.


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