After the hilarious, yet rather callow & callous comments that kick started last weekend’s “Clooney Golden Globes”, I just couldn’t wait another week to watch Syriana. Here are my thoughts which may have been a little more lucent had they been poured out immediately after I watched the movie.
My summary – I definitely think the movie should have been made in two parts. This would have given Stephen Gaghan , a better platform (and more time) to get across a convincing story. But of course, sequels are always tricky.
The man who wrote “Traffic”, which was truly path-breaking just for the coexisting narrative style that was both novel and stylish, has come up with this movie, Syriana, this time directing it too. Syriana, pretty much follows the same narrative style as Traffic but the difference is that “Syriana” has an underlying, powerful message that every American needs to understand, appreciate, not get overly defensive about and finally use this to question the capitalistic corporations and the pro-corporate-governments, that have historically led the country in a make-believe-positive direction, at a cost that is truly unquantifiable.
Tough questions indeed – specially for the misled and the blind sighted public. Stephen Gaghan should go home with a bouquet just for this idea. The entire story revolves around the merger of two oil firms, one American and the other Chinese. With the oil obsessed American government that exploits its super smart intelligence agency (CIA) to propagate western values among a largely conservative Iranian society and has vested interests in making sure a corporate merger (Connex and Killen) takes place smoothly, there cannot be a better time to be in Energy business, albeit as remotely connected as Matt Damon’s Energy analyst character, Bryan Woodman is. So comes in Woodman with his pretty wife and lovable kids living in Geneva. Then there are the South Asian (Pakistan) immigrant workers in this unnamed Gulf country where the Emir’s elder son signs a major drilling contract with Killen (which is why the Connex merger becomes all the more critical for the US). Did I leave two more plots? Yes..may be, see I told you that this is a complicated storyline to try to make a movie out of in 2.5 hours. We have a CIA agent who specializes in mid-east missions. No questions asked. No answers revealed. But the man, Bob Barnes is a firm believer in his duties for the government until CIA turns it back towards him and totally ignores him, when a mission that he is sent on to kill Emir’s elder son, the heir apparent, turns bad. Then, there is a law firm that is working on the big merger, led by a career focused Bennet Holiday and his alcohol addict father. With all the plots developing at a brisk pace, most of the time with very little time for you to understand, the story breaks into a poignant culmination when the plots weave together to highlight the powerful Washington lobbyings and corporate back-room dealings, the ruthless CIA missions and the immigrant oil workers who are left to search for their means in an alien country without any time to prepare for, thus making them an easy prey for the religious madrasas that are always recruting for their terrorist acts – a culmination that just leaves the viewers with some questions.
Of course, the director has taken a lot of things for granted – like the viewer’s intelligence to assimilate the complex plots within a short period of time and also the viewer’s background as far as mid-east and oil industry goes.
In my mind, the movie is just not powerful enough to drive home the point. But I guess the flip side to that is that, at least someone is raking up this issue.
The questions Gaghan asks through Syriana are pretty straight forward.
Is it worth and Is it fair?