Critic Consensus: Ambitious, complicated, intellectual, and demanding of its audience, Syriana is both a gripping geopolitical thriller and wake-up call to the complacent.
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Critic Reviews for Syriana
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.
Its dark, dog-eat-dog vision of the world we live in may give you geopolitical nightmares.
It's entirely possible that Gaghan just isn't an actor's director.
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.
Watch closely and listen carefully during Syriana because Stephen Gaghan's movie is that rarity: a thinking person's drama.
Audience Reviews for Syriana
Syriana is not a film for everyone. It requires the audience to be extremely attentive, and may even require multiple viewings to be able to fully understand who is doing what, where they're doing it, and why they're doing it. The plot is so complicated and ambitious that at the beginning I found myself frustrated and annoyed that I didn't get it and that it was moving at such a slow pace. There are also multiple plot lines that never really have anything to do with each other except that the actions of one affects one of the other plot lines thus altering the outcome. But all these quibbles put aside, Syriana is a wake-up call to people who think everything is going well in the oil sectors of the world, it's got this docu-drama feel to it, and it rings true in every sense. George Clooney stands out amidst an outstanding cast. I think I'd need to see it again, and pay much closer attention to be able to fully comprehend and understand what was going on. Definitely go see Syriana, but see it when you are awake and prepared to pay attention.
An exhilirating movie that is fun to watch and interesting to think about. Clooney steals the show.
"Syriana" is a rubrics cube of a film and like a rubrics cube, it can be maddening, unassuming and unsatisfying. But also like the game, "Syriana" can be immensely rewarding if given the proper attention. "Syriana" is not a film for everyone, hell, it's not even a film for most fans of "Traffic" (Stephen Gagan's other complicated screenplay about an endless geopolitical issue). I read in a review that "Syriana" is like trying to follow four separate chess games at once and I believe that to be extremely accurate. The characters in the film are 'professional liars' as one puts it, making it extremely hard to track their actions, but it's in that intense conflict where "Syriana" is it's most gripping. Figuring out who is connected to who (hint, they are all connected) and tracing how the smallest decisions can lead to death is fascinating. Everything about the film rings true, from the dialogue, to the locations, to the interactions. I also was really taken in by the themes of family. "Syriana" also works as an epic family crime saga. I use the term loosely because 'families' can be created on a whim in this film. It's interesting to see how the oil business (or epidemic? or addiction?) can corrupt every aspect of a (born or self made) family. Special note should be paid to the actors with George Clooney (in an Oscar winning role), Matt Damon and Christopher Plummer standing out. What solidifies "Syriana" as the defining political thriller of the 00s is Robert Elswit's (my favorite DP) cinematography. He makes the film cohesive when it seems as if it's going to fly off the rails. "Syriana" is a film we really don't see made anyone, a political thriller that zeros in a situation rather than a person to make a statement about a problem.
|Mussawi:||(Bob is tied to a chair with his hands on a table) Bob, your gonna give me the names of everyone who has taken money from you. (He pulls a fingernail from Bob's hand with a plier) Oh, that is disgusting.|
|Mussawi:||[Bob is tied to a chair with his hands on a table] Bob, your gonna give me the names of everyone who has taken money from you. [he pulls a fingernail from Bob's hand with a plier] Oh, that is disgusting.|
|Robby Barnes:||Jimmy, your not one of those Koran thumpers.|
|Mussawi:||My name is Mussawi. (He pulls another fingernail from Bob. He then throws water at Bob's face and begins punching him violently in the face) You fucking fuck, stupid fuck, what the fuck! This is a fucking war! Your a P.O.fucking W! Give me the fucking names! (Bob hits his head against the ground, still tied to the chair) Fuck it. (In Arabic) I'm cutting his fucking head off. (He grabs a knife and kneels down to bob's head) I'm gonna cut your head off Bob.|
|Mussawi:||My name is Mussawi. [he pulls another fingernail from Bob. He then throws water at Bob's face and begins punching him violently in the face] You fucking fuck, stupid fuck, what the fuck! This is a fucking war! Your a P.O.fucking W! Give me the fucking names! [Bob hits his head against the ground, still tied to the chair] Fuck it. [in Arabic] I'm cutting his fucking head off. [he grabs a knife and kneels down to bob's head] I'm gonna cut your head off Bob.|
|Jimmy Pope:||Corruption is our protection. Corruption keeps us safe and warm ... Corruption is why we win.|
|Jimmy Pope:||Corruption is our protection. Corruption keeps us safe and warm. Corruption is why we win.|
|Bryan Woodman:||But what do you need a financial advisor for? Twenty years ago you had the highest Gross National Product in the world, now you're tied with Albania. Your second largest export is secondhand goods, closely followed by dates which you're losing five cents a pound on... You know what the business community thinks of you? They think that a hundred years ago you were living in tents out here in the desert chopping each other's heads off and that's where you'll be in another hundred years, so on behalf of my firm I accept your offer.|
|Bob Barnes:||I want you to take him from his hotel, drug him, put him in the front of a car, and run a truck into it at 50 mph.|