Review: A political thriller as slick as Texas tea
By Sergei Pourmal
Published Friday, Dec. 16, 2005, Gargoyle, arts
Oil is a dirty, dirty business. Extracting it from its subterranean home takes more than just a myriad of drills, pumps, and mechanical doohickeys — it takes politics. And, as “Syriana” stylishly proves, those politics are often frighteningly corrupt.
Coming from the same minds that wrote “Traffic,” Syriana is a complex web of characters and plots that all revolve around the dealings of the oil industry, yet the stories have only subtle connections to each other individually. The movie weaves in and out, jumping from one storyline to the next, right up until the satisfying conclusion, which thankfully avoids bringing all the characters together.
The story in general revolves around the consequences of a merger between Texan giant Connex and a rising oil company named Killan, which recently acquired rights to tap into massive oil reserves in the Middle East. “Syriana” goes on to show how the effects of the oil industry resounds across the world, on both the political and personal level.
George Clooney plays a CIA operative whose clear focus leads to his own men turning their backs on him. Meanwhile, Matt Damon works as a consultant for an energy trading company, who tries to cash in on the ambitions of a Mid East prince (Mohammed Sheik Agiza). Between these two plots lies a myriad of characters, each of whom is tied up in the personal price of oil.
Even for those who get lost and left behind during the two-hour long lesson on political dishonesty, Syriana's message comes through clear as day — everyone is looking out for themselves in the industry.
From the CEOs lounging in their gluttonous Texan headquarters to the rulers of the Middle East whose countries sit atop enormous oil reserves to the bureaucrats in Washington cutting backroom deals to protect any shady dealings, everyone is scheming to cash in on the world's addiction to oil.
The film's message comes at a perfect time, as oil companies are breaking profit records annually as the price of energy continues to rise.
The one thing “Syriana” leaves out is an answer to the problems of oil politics. The film's conclusion is informative and thought-provoking, yet ultimately you leave the theater knowing that the cycle of corruption, violence, and personal profits is bound to continue.
“Syriana” is a brilliant example of story telling and is a must-see for any gas-loving American on either side of the political spectrum.