A semi-follow up to Traffic, writer Stephen Gagan, who won an Oscar for Traffic, this time serves as both writer and director of a film set around business concerning oil companies, government involvement, as well as the people living and working in the middle east. It combines an ensemble cast and a tight screenplay, to form a complicated but interesting story.
There are a number of story threads, some of which connect to the other, so I'll layout the basics. George Clooney plays an aging CIA spy who becomes a scapegoat. Matt Damon plays an analyst who becomes involved with a Prince's plans for his countries reconstruction following a tragic event. Jeffrey Wright plays a young lawyer looking to go over the details of a merge between two oil companies. And their is also a plot surrounding a Pakistani teen seeing his world in a new light and attempting to take action.
There is a wide assortment of other actors involved as well, including Christopher Plummer, Amanda Peet, Chris Cooper, William Hurt, Alexander Siddig, and Tim Blake Nelson. They are all superb in their roles, making it particularly helpful in a film this complex.
While the commodity in question is Oil, it certainly doesn't make much of a difference, this story surrounds the role of business in an area that fuels its profits and the concerns of the various countries and people involved.
Certainly this film takes a some effort in order to fully understand every aspect, which is why it works better on repeated viewings. However, the way the film delivers a lot of information works in its construction. In particular, the first third of the movie works in throwing the viewer into all these situations, before finally beginning to pull the various threads together and discern what is going on.
Bryan Woodman: Beirut, it's great. It's like the Paris of the Middle East.
Also, while the performers are strong and the story is compelling enough, it does lack some of the entertainment factor to make it more suitable for general audiences, as well as the visual polish that makes a film like Traffic much more memorable.
Still, this is a very good movie, which uses a relevant topic to provide for an interesting story full of good performances.
Bob Barnes: Intelligence work isn't training seminars and gold stars for attendance.
Fred Franks: What do you think intelligence work is Bob?
Bob Barnes: I think it's two people in a room and one of them's asking a favor that is a capital crime in every country on earth, a hanging crime.
Fred Franks: No Bob, it's assessing the information gathered from that favor and then balancing it against all the other information gathered from all the other favors.