Syriana Reviews

Top Critic
J. R. Jones
Chicago Reader
March 30, 2009
This is intelligent, committed, and politically provocative, though its narrative puzzle box may prompt you to throw up your hands and let ExxonMobil go on running the world.
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David Ansen
Newsweek
November 1, 2007
Its dark, dog-eat-dog vision of the world we live in may give you geopolitical nightmares.
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Stephanie Zacharek
Salon.com
October 7, 2006
It's entirely possible that Gaghan just isn't an actor's director.
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Stanley Kauffmann
The New Republic
January 3, 2006
Syriana impresses, not because it is very moving, which it isn't, or because it is crystal clear, which it also isn't, but because it is so large, so encompassing, so seemingly privy to inside stuff.
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Moira MacDonald
Seattle Times
December 9, 2005
Watch closely and listen carefully during Syriana because Stephen Gaghan's movie is that rarity: a thinking person's drama.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Ruthe Stein
San Francisco Chronicle
December 9, 2005
It's hard to get passionately swept away by a movie when you're struggling continually to figure out who's doing what to whom and why.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
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Roger Moore
Orlando Sentinel
December 9, 2005
Syriana is complex, engrossing, involving and depressing. Difficult to absorb, it is also difficult to accept, and it is one of the best films of 2005.
Full Review | Original Score: 5/5
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Rene Rodriguez
Miami Herald
December 9, 2005
Syriana coolly dissects a system of duplicity, chicanery and corruption that has been in play for several decades now, and examines the consequences that it has borne.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Amy Biancolli
Houston Chronicle
December 9, 2005
Syriana is an ambitious edifice, built with conviction and skill. But I'm not sure I understand it, and I'm not sure I care.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Tom Long
Detroit News
December 9, 2005
A purposely jagged and harsh news story of a film, Syriana attempts to take on the powers that run the world and for the most part it succeeds.
Full Review | Original Score: A-
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Terry Lawson
Detroit Free Press
December 9, 2005
It forces you to intently watch and listen and ask questions, something that in the past six years has been skillfully portrayed as an unpatriotic response to an increasingly complex international scenario.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
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Robert Denerstein
Denver Rocky Mountain News
December 9, 2005
[Syriana] has what lots of great thrillers have, a sense that it knows things we don't, that even the most skeptical of us may be a little naive about the ways of the world.
| Original Score: B
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Michael Booth
Denver Post
December 9, 2005
Syriana is a fascinating movie -- and a substantive and thought-provoking one -- but it does not necessarily attain greatness.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Wesley Morris
Boston Globe
December 9, 2005
Intelligent, political, incensed, timely, and appropriately cynical.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Ken Tucker
New York Magazine/Vulture
December 9, 2005
As he did in Traffic, Gaghan intertwines his disparate subplots with impeccable pacing -- his screenplay is a model of how to arrange scenes so that each one ends leaving you wanting to know more.
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Bill Muller
Arizona Republic
December 8, 2005
Your enjoyment of this movie will be in direct proportion to your patience. If you can stand not knowing everything right now and wait for the story's threads to weave into a rug, Syriana makes for an engaging time.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/5
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Philip Wuntch
Dallas Morning News
December 8, 2005
Mr. Gaghan doesn't insult our intelligence, but he demands our attention. If you're up to those demands, you'll be rewarded.
Full Review | Original Score: B+
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Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times
December 8, 2005
Syriana is an endlessly fascinating movie about oil and money, America and China, traders and spies, the Gulf States and Texas, reform and revenge, bribery and betrayal.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
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Carrie Rickey
Philadelphia Inquirer
December 8, 2005
Untangle the Gordian knot at the heart of Syriana and you find a riveting drama of succession.
| Original Score: 4/4
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Desson Thomson
Washington Post
December 8, 2005
What's so powerful about the film is the rich stories it tells and how it leads them like so many human tributaries to one black, bubbling source.
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Jeff Strickler
Minneapolis Star Tribune
December 8, 2005
Syriana is a caustic and cynical political thriller with a plot that occasionally confuses but a message that leaves no room for misinterpretation.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Bruce Newman
San Jose Mercury News
December 8, 2005
You keep straining to understand the bits and pieces of information that you can make out, but it still adds up to a lot less than the sum of its parts.
| Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune
December 8, 2005
The film's weary, politically wary vibe sticks with you.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Eleanor Ringel Gillespie
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
December 8, 2005
A gripping and daringly complex movie about How Things Get Done these days in the blood-drenched world of oil, politics and religion.
Full Review | Original Score: A-
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Rex Reed
New York Observer
December 7, 2005
Though never a fan of Mr. Clooney onscreen, I doff my hat to him for checking his vanity at the door and trying to make movies with more significance than the weekend grosses in Variety.
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Andrew Sarris
New York Observer
November 30, 2005
One can say of Mr. Gaghan, Mr. Soderbergh and Mr. Clooney that their heads may be in the right place in Syriana, but their hearts are not much in evidence as far as any emotional investment in their characters is concerned.
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David Denby
New Yorker
November 29, 2005
It's a strange movie, and a stunningly pessimistic one, and the strangeness and pessimism connect it (in my mind, at least) to other recent American films in ways that suggest that something unhappy in the national mood has crept into the movies.
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Peter Rainer
Christian Science Monitor
November 28, 2005
Gaghan comes on like a heavyweight, but he's wearing kid gloves.
Full Review | Original Score: B-
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Peter Howell
Toronto Star
November 23, 2005
It leaves us gasping for air, scratching our heads and wondering if we've seen something truly important or something that just thinks it is. But at least it leaves us thinking.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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David Edelstein
NPR's Fresh Air
November 23, 2005
In some ways, we're the protagonist, and when the strands coalesce in the last hour and we glimpse the bigger picture, Syriana finally eats into the mind.
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Stephen Whitty
Newark Star-Ledger
November 23, 2005
The stars are all good here ... (and they're aided by supporting work from dependable performers such as Chris Cooper, William Hurt and Christopher Plummer) and Clooney -- and his story -- really shines.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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A.O. Scott
New York Times
November 23, 2005
A complex, intriguing narrative about oil, terrorism, money and power.
| Original Score: 5/5
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Lou Lumenick
New York Post
November 23, 2005
Hugely ambitious, excellently acted and very challenging.
| Original Score: 3.5/4
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Jack Mathews
New York Daily News
November 23, 2005
The presence of George Clooney, Matt Damon and other fine actors helps you ignore your sense of descending ignorance as the movie unfolds. And the ending, when you think about it for a few days, does add up.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Ella Taylor
L.A. Weekly
November 23, 2005
Seldom have form, content and cultural sensibility been so excitably aligned as in this fascinating, exasperating film about the unholy marriage of power politics and global business.
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Rick Groen
Globe and Mail
November 23, 2005
Syriana isn't the perfect guide, but its torch probes the darkness further than most and shines brightly enough that blindness can no longer can be our excuse.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Lisa Schwarzbaum
Entertainment Weekly
November 23, 2005
Syriana has a lot of big, important things to say about big, important things, and it says them with a sense of urgency.
Full Review | Original Score: B-
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Claudia Puig
USA Today
November 22, 2005
Thought-provoking and unnerving, emotionally engaging and intellectually stimulating.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times
November 22, 2005
A fearless and ambitious piece of work, made with equal parts passion and calculation, an unapologetically entertaining major studio release with compelling real-world relevance, a film that takes numerous risks and thrives on them all.
Full Review | Original Score: 4.5/5
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Richard Corliss
TIME Magazine
November 22, 2005
[A]n engrossing, insider's tour of the world's hottest spots, grandest schemes and most dangerous men.
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J. Hoberman
Village Voice
November 22, 2005
The movie may be too knowing for its own good, but it's not glib and it never goes cheesy.
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James Berardinelli
ReelViews
November 22, 2005
It's a wake-up call. In today's environment, it's a rare thing to find a movie with interesting characters in dense, intelligent storylines, but that's what Syriana offers.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Gene Seymour
Newsday
November 22, 2005
Somehow, the movie convinces you, through its strengths of characterization and atmosphere, that it's showing a little of how the world really works -- and that the world's dark machinations are every bit as sordid and pitiless as your worst suspicions.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Top Critic
Richard Roeper
Ebert & Roeper
November 21, 2005
This is a cynical but undoubtedly accurate portrayal of the inner workings of international politics, where white-shoe lawyers and oil executives can be nearly as ruthless as the CIA hit men and missile-toting rebels.
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Kirk Honeycutt
Hollywood Reporter
November 21, 2005
What Syriana feels like is a television miniseries condensed into two hours.
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Todd McCarthy
Variety
November 21, 2005
The richness of detail is immense.
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Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
November 14, 2005
No dry civics lesson, this fighting-mad film isn't just hot, it's incendiary. And no one gets off the hook. You see it with the exhilarating feeling that a movie can make a difference.
| Original Score: 4/4