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Evening out and Syriana movie review

Thanks to my brother and his SIL, C and I had an evening out on Saturday. We had a lovely time together as always. Unfortunately the food at Amber India was mediocre and the movie we saw Syriana had several flaws.
In critiquing someone's synopsis, Miss Snark blogged "Even when you make stuff up, you have to get all the details just right so we’re focused on the things you want us to be thinking about, not wondering why something doesn’t make sense."
Unfortunately one of my key problems with Syriana was the 'government is really stupid' and plot holes kept reminding me it was just a movie.



George Clooney plays a spy who has been a faithful solider for the CIA. It's implied he messed up in Beirut in the 80's. He's rather impolitic at times. Otherwise he's always done what he's told without question. He follows orders. Clooney's ordered to assasinate this prince. He contacts Mussawi a shady character in Beirut to do the job. It's implied that this sort of thing is typical. Unfortunately Mussawi turns on Clooney. Mussawi captures and tortures Clooney. Mussawi tells the media about Clooney's assasination plot. Mussawi pressures the CIA saying he has photos. The CIA folds and starts investigating Clooney. At this point I go "this doesn't make sense" I can believe the CIA is incompetent. But why would the media believe a seedy terrorist over the CIA. Also I'm sure screwups happen sometimes. No one would work for the CIA if the CIA just gave up their faithful agents when something went wrong. Mussawi has photos of him and Clooney meeting. So what? Lie about what they mean. Heck, the US government has gotten away with lying about weapons of mass destruction. Then it gets more unbelievable.

Clooney visits his boss while he's with his kids and his boss refuses to speak to him. And the boss is basically an asshole. Sorry, but if a pissed off employee who was a trained killer wanted to speak to me. I would speak to him. Even if said employee was completely in the wrong, I'd make nicey nicey to appease him. I wouldn't want him to go postal on me. I mean clearly in this universe, the CIA doesn't protect its own.

Then Clooney saves himself from investigation by threatening a big oil executive's life. Um, and why couldn't the CIA put pressure on the big oil executive?

Then the movie had another poor subplot with a Islamic boy who accidentally got mixed up with a terrorist cell. The boy was supposed to be converted to extremism to the point where at the end of the movie he drove his boat into an oil tanker using a missile that Clooney accidentally sold to the terrorist cell. Sadly unconvincing from beginning to end.

In fact the entire movie was quite confusing, because there was several subplots very loosely tied together. Maybe the critics who raved about the movie were too confused to notice the holes in the plot.

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jennyrob
Jan. 10th, 2006 04:31 pm (UTC)
Another take...
Craig & I saw Syriana and had a different take on Syriana. We talked about it all the way home, trying to piece things together.

The CIA is generally pissed at Clooney from the beginning. He's a good soldier, but he writes long memos that implicate the CIA in affairs the public would not like. They want to get him out of active work and behind a desk. When he's off selling missles to fund the Committee to Liberate Iran, he accidentially sells one to a terrorist group who blows up his real clients. This is a problem, because the public shouldn't find out about the CLI and what it's doing. With the real clients are killed, it's more of a problem. (Our question was: why is the CLI dinking around selling 2 missles at a time?)

The CIA wants the "good" prince assissinated because he interfers with the CLI's vision of the region. They send Clooney, but Mussawi has loyalty to the prince, and so tortures Clooney. When Mussawi leaks, instead of defending Clooney, the CIA decides to distance themselves from him. This order came from someone above Clooney's boss, and his boss's boss. In that scene, you can see that they looked a little distressed by the order. They probably aren't used to turning on their own agents. But they do it to protect the fact that the CIA is being given marching orders (and doing all sorts of dirty things like selling arms to questionables and assassinating people) by the CLI.

It wasn't unbelievable to me that his boss blew him off in front if his house. It was heart-wrenching, but not unbelievable. Clooney knew that his boss wasn't responsible for what happend to him. He wanted to know who was, and he thought his boss might befriend him and tell him. But, he didn't.

Luckily, his old colleague and friend, William Hurt, who isn't in the CIA anymore, knew. Hurt's character was probably working directly for CLI as a contractor.

I also wasn't thrilled with the oil-worker-turned-suicide bomber subplot. But, I found the rest of the movie interesting and compelling.

The message I took away from it was: The oil companies are making policy and directing our government, in an active way. However, they (the oil companies and the government) are doing illegal things, and don't want the public to know about the extend the oil companies control the government (as well as the illegal things). For most people, like the black lawyer, the corruption isn't something to be challanged. It allows them to go home to nice houses at night. That "corruption speech" with some unknown white collar worker yelling at the black lawyer was a powerful part of the film. I didn't like it, but it seemed central to the movie.

In a different kind of movie, the black lawyer would have been an underdog whistle-blowing hero. But, the corruption--the government being run by oil interests outside the law--is so great, that the lawyer doesn't risk his life and try to expose everything, or even anything dangerous. He'll expose his own law firm (risking his own job and sending up his own boss), but probably end up working for CLI and in a much nicer house than he had at the beginning of the movie. The message: we may all be complicit in (and benefiting from) the corruption.
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