Syriana

Syriana is a tight but complex thriller that deals with issues of politics, oil, and terrorism. Recent happenings with Hezbollah and Iran give it extra poignance. It would certainly benefit from repeat watchings, and I wouldn’t claim to be able to explain it all. The relevancy or accuracy of the film it is probably almost impossible to know.

It’s certainly an adult American thriller, and Stephen Gaghan, the writer and director, is obviously familiar with American political nature and is not constrained by his national culture. Even the fake British news presentation at one point is not from the usual Hollywood ‘tea and the queen’ mold, and only allows one minor slip-up through: the use of the phrase ‘one-hundred-sixty’ rather than ‘one hundred and sixty’. There is a lot of subtitled foreign language content (such as substantial amounts of Arabic spoken by George Clooney), which is also rare in American film (another good example being The Last Samurai). Let’s hope this consciousness of the world from American filmmakers grows.

George Clooney and Matt Damon are both great. The film is well directed, well edited, and cleanly filmed. There is a torture scene that I avoided, as I usually do, because I find it so uncomfortable, but there’s nothing wrong with it - I just find it too unpleasant.

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[...] The film pokes fun at plenty of folks, on both the American left and right (it’s no coincidence the film’s creators are basically libertarians). At times, it almost feels like it’s closer to hitting the truth than its far more complex and serious rivals like the more recent Syriana, which alludes to some of the same topics. It’s not surprising also, what with the film being from the creators of South Park, that it’s both offensive and politically insensitive (Derkaderkastan is apparently a Central Asian country now). Put simply: if you don’t like swearing for the hell of it and (comically well-constructed) childish behaviour, you won’t like this film. [...]