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Syriana

Film Two Stars

Syriana has been hyped to the umpteenth level, it's a political film which really does focus on the American Government (mainly the CIA) and Oil corporations, and yet it doesn't really have anything to say.

Indeed there is a strong cast, and they do give some very good performances, but lengthy political speeches referencing dates and events of which you may have no understanding, followed by lengthy pauses and lingering camera shots, does little to make a film much less the audience have an understanding of a fragmented, multi-threaded storyline.

Syriana_Poster.jpgBefore we get any more negative about the film let me thank the team at Edinburgh's Ocean Vue Cinema for the chance to see this movie and review it. I've had a busy catch up weekend on the film front and they've been fully supportive. As well as selling some superb hotdogs...seriously, I love them. The hotdogs that is.

So, Syriana isn't as good as we've been led to believe, and I do feel I have to say that the acting here is not at fault. The actors are weighty and they give some excellent performances. George Clooney, Christopher Plummer, Chris Cooper, Matt Damon, Alexander Siddig and Mark Strong are the actors that spring to mind as giving really strong performances. Particularly Clooney and Siddig throughout the film and Clooney and Strong during the torture scene. However it's really the story itself and the way it has been assembled in the film that is to blame here.

The film cuts back and forth between multiple story threads that continue to evolve what seems like unconnected lines. Yet you do feel that at some point they will connect in the future, and the more it continues the more you can see this connection coming and some ultimate revelation. Yet what you find is that the lead up to this realisation is slow, complex, and the cuts are made so harshly that you are struggling to keep control of what the threads are revealing and also to find any empathy for the characters.

The effect of this is to continually be playing catch up with the story, so that two or three scenes later you're still unsure what was happening in an earlier scene in one of the other threads. Even then you do feel that near the end these threads come together for some form of climax, revelation or indeed understanding. Well I would say that the latter does, there is an understanding, but the outcome is a confusion wondering why we were told all this and what exactly the point was.

There seem to be no moral attached to the tale. Perhaps it's that people are bad, or that corporations are bad, or that lets just leave these countries to their own devices and they might sort themselves out. I'm not really sure.

On another positive point I have to say that it is well filmed and the location shots are superb. Yet none of this makes up for the actual content of the film.

Despite all this it's very clear that Clooney provides another career defining performance, in fact it is fair to say that this film would have worked a lot better if they had centralised on the Prince, the Country and the CIA, pushing the other threads to mere bylines or indeed dropping them altogether.

It's a shame because I really wanted to like this, mainly due to the press it has received for the political content and modern messages, yet these just didn't appear in any cohesive manner. It's these points that I think made the film so successful. In a period when the critics, awards and public are crying out for outspoken and politically aware films, Syriana ticks these boxes, but as a film...well, it's not that great.


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Comments


I knew it.

Good intentions are not enough to make good movies.

Not everybody understands it. And, I have to say it, I am fed up of these kind of movies.

I find 24 (the TV series) explains it all quite better. I still haven´t found brilliant cinema in response of the world post 11-S in which we live.

I remember the movies done in the USA during the II World War, and the comparison makes me cry.


Peter, you should have a look at The Hamburg Cell (http://www.filmstalker.co.uk/archives/2004/10/the_hamburg_cell.html) in the review section. That's an excellent 9/11 movie.

Richard, thanks for saving me from this movie.

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