Syriana Review

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Economics is a social science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between the ends and scarce means which have alternative uses‘ said Lionel Robbins. This is considered as the modern definition of economics and this definition is considered to be ‘scarcity oriented’. ‘Human behaviour, society,relationships‘ are the words that echo throughout my mind after watching Syriana.

Micheal Gaghan’s Syriana depicts the effects of the merger of two oil companies named Connex and Klein on various individuals right from an aspirant for the next Emir to a jobless Pakistani worker and everyone in between.

Syriana isn’t a geopolitical thriller about oil industry at its core, it is a drama. It studies human relationships and the impact an industrial event has various human relationships spanning various continents. One is set in Kazakhstan, three in America and one in a faraway country not mentioned. But the impact is the same. There are drastic consequences to each party involved.

The movie’s tagline is ‘Everything is connected‘. Never has a tagline seemed more appropriate for a movie with respect to its content. Syriana is directed by Stephen Gaghan, the same individual who wrote the screenplay for Traffic. The movie is loosely based on the novel ‘See No Evil’. The screenplay is rock solid, as expected. There isn’t a single hole in the movie’s screenplay.

I love movies which demand you to pay full concentration to the flick. Do not watch them if you watch movies as means of stress busters on weekends. I recommend (500) Days Of Summer for that exercise. Syriana is a movie that is very demanding in its nature. Stephen Gaghan has taken up a screenplay which many may consider as inappropriate to be made into a movie and to some extents, they are right. Syriana requires utmost attention from its viewer, if it wanders for even some minutes, the viewer will be lost for the remaining narrative to be unfolded.

It is very disturbing in its nature and very very hard to comprehend. When I finished watching Syriana, I felt ashamed of myself. I felt as if I hadn’t given something great the attention it deserved. I immediately checked out Ebert’s review of Syriana. And I was assured to write this review. Syriana isn’t meant to be understood by us, the general audience, it is written to be comprehended by intellectuals. But, for us, it is meant to be a dramatic thriller. A movie in which how much we try to understand, we fail to grasp, but still feel satisfied in the climax.

George Clooney is tantalizing as Bob Barnes. He sheds all the star factor in him and becomes the character. Matt Damon is superb in his role as well. And so are the other actors. Amanda Peet is phenomenal in this movie.

Syriana is a slow paced thriller. It is a compelling character study. There are various plot lines intersecting at various points. Moreover, it is a apt description of how everyone from up to low is affected by economy. The whole point is that oil is running out and everyone wants it and will do anything for it. It shows human nature in its lowest grade, a society which is driven by greed. It shows how money changes humans. But, the very fabric of the film is the underlying father-son relationship in each of the narrations. It is a struggle of how these characters try to keep a normalcy in their loved ones while being embroiled in these great crisis. Some break, while some come out stronger.

It is also a fascinating insight into magnitudes of events we choose to ignore. A uncomplicated death of a young boy sets into motion a world changing crisis. It is a standing testimony to the fact that history is shaped by small events. Take the example of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. A small insignificant death triggers one of the greatest horrors in the history of the world. I also recommend you to watch the dual-episode concatenation of such a conspiracy which unfolded in Pandora and Linchpin, the best episodes of one of my all time favourite television series Castle.

To try to understand the script in its full sense is an exercise in futility. It is enough material to write a book as big as George RR Martin writes. The movie’s biggest fault is that it assumes that the audience as bright as it is. Most of the audience, like me, isn’t. For a movie of a running time of 128 minutes, this flick deserves much more clarity. It doesn’t justify the running time. Don’t get me wrong, it is superbly edited by Tim Squyres but it needs more explanation. We are lost in this movie. It needed something uncomplicated to run it. It needed a false perception that could give the audience the satisfaction of understanding Syriana. Believe me, nobody wants to come out of the cinema hall and acknowledge that they didn’t understand the movie they just saw. Many people have the ideology that movies, which are means of entertainment, cannot get the better of them. The relationship that a film maker has with audience should be strong for a movie to work, and here it does seem feeble in nature. Syriana is as complicated as it gets, and for its own bad, that doesn’t change at all through out the movie.

The movie is not for general viewing. It is definitely not for everyone. It has a terrifying torture sequence which even I couldn’t watch. It scared the living crap out of me. But, the climax gets it right. It puts into limelight the emotional core of the film. I felt like crying. I still don’t know why. Maybe because it is when it hits you how broke these characters are in real life. And (next sentence is a spoiler, please skip it if you haven’t watched the flick) I can assure that the expression on Clooney and Siddig’s faces seconds before their last moments touched something deep down in my heart.

The score haunts me to this day. This movie would have been a insipid, colossal failure if it wasn’t for the score by Desplat, which well deserved an Academy nomination. The whole movie is burdened on this score. Being a slow paced thriller, it requires the score to keep up and give the audience those timely adrenaline rushes and Alexandre Desplat never fails in his job, proving himself as one of the best composers we have. And that piano solo is the plight of all the characters put into a single theme which may be one of the greatest themes ever composed. Never have I heard something so soothing yet so haunting in its nature.

Syriana is a gritty, slow paced thriller set within the oil industry, but at its core is a disturbing drama about human relations and how money affects every one of them to drastic extents. It lags in various portions and is hard to keep up with it and is a one-time watch, but should be appreciated for its great effort and its tantalizing performances.

Rating : 8.1 / 10


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