Monday, March 13, 2006

No-one really wins (note - plot spoilers)

I had wanted to see Good Night, And Good Luck, but that isn't showing in London (at least not at the Cineworld at Westferry) any longer, so I went to see Syriana yesterday. It's a long film, but I didn't really notice the time passing, so engrossing was the story. Anyone who has seen Traffic will recognise the multiple plot strands and locations interwoven throughout - which is hardly surprising, as it was written by the same person, Stephen Gaghan. There are four major plotlines: a Washington lawyer is commissioned to find out if any inducements were paid to obtain rights to a natural gas field in Azerbaijan; a CIA agent is sent to Beirut to have the elder son of an Emir assassinated; a Pakistani boy is made redundant from a Persian Gulf oil facility; and an energy analyst is hired by the same Emir's son after his own son dies in an accident.

The actors are uniformly excellent, but singling any of them out in such an ensemble piece seems wrong. No one character dominates the plot strands. The cinematography is excellent, particularly of the desert scenes, and the film is relatively easy to follow (though it is not clear how Bob Barnes [George Clooney] gets hold of the information which sends him back to the Middle East in an attempt to save the man he previously tried to have assassinated).

The obvious villain is American big business - oil, specifically - and how its influence distorts and manipulates foreign policy, both of America and its Middle Eastern allies. Whether people are caught up in this willingly, blindly, or unknowingly is up to the viewer, but one does get a sense that seemingly small decisions made by a handful of very wealthy and powerful men can have cataclysmic consequences. There are no real heroes, either. The most affecting storyline is that of Wasim, the Pakistani boy who, losing his job, and mistreated by the people of the country where he works for being unemployed, drifts slowly but inexorably towards the sort of behaviour which would be inevitably condemned as terrorism. The film shows that he is not really motivated by fanaticism, for he doubts his faith, but more sheer desperation at a situation he cannot control. In fact, one could argue that none of the characters is in control of their lives and circumstances, however much power or influence they appear to possess.

In all, a thought-provoking, interesting, affecting, intense and excellent film. Go and see it.



At Mon Mar 13, 08:35:00 pm, Anonymous sarahvic said...

Sad you didn't get to see Good Night & Good Luck, but glad you enjoyed Syriana!


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