Directed by: Stephen Gaghan
Written by: Stephen Gaghan
Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon
Stephen Gaghan’s second film, Syriana, bears similarities to his Academy Award winning script, Traffic, as the merging of two huge oil companies in the US affect multiple protagonists through different threads of narrative, interacting and culminating in compelling climaxes and high stakes for every person involved. From immigrant workers to financial brokers and CIA agents, their personal involvement in the Middle Eastern oil business is driven by ideals and desires that aren’t too dissimilar, despite their ostensible differences.
While the music and the rhythm of Syriana feels like any other conspiracy thriller, there is an intimacy and intensity with each character in Syriana that gives them more than simply functional roles in pushing forward a plot. In fact, as the plot proves to be more twisted, complex and heavy than most viewers may be able manage (my brain certainly got a workout anyway), Syriana draws its focus toward the push and pull of power, betrayal, and corruption that involves every single player in this game of trading and drilling. Syriana doesn’t try to make obvious who the good guy or the bad guy is, and certainly doesn’t make it easy for us to understand who we should sympathize with.
In doing so, Syriana suggests that rather than simplifying, or even provide an explanation for the oil business, compelling drama can be found in the personal lives and motivations of those who are involved. That, even they may not be able to fully comprehend the scope and scale of what it is they are a part of, and how they are affecting others.
Using a film language that forces us to engage with the depth and complexity of each and every scene, Syriana is thought-provoking – not simply in its subject matter and plot, but in the perspectives and ideas it offers through characters and compelling performances.