Saturday, January 05, 2008

Mini-Movie Review: Syriana

Well, it's official. I can no longer see any movie where a child is harmed. I mean, I knew that something bad happened to a kid in "Syriana," but I figured I could handle it. I couldn't.

Let's just say that my son will never be allowed to attend pool parties at the homes of Saudi Arabian princes. (Fortunately, there isn't much chance of that happening.)

Anyway, back to the movie. It deserves a long, more thoughtful review than the one I'm about to give it. It's an ambitious work of storytelling, weaving together multiple threads in a tale about the CIA, oil, Islamist terrorists and Saudi Arabian princes. And of course, all the bad things that the United States government is doing in the Middle East, all in the name of oil. It really makes you want to go out and buy the first Prius you see. The director is Stephen Gaghan, who also helmed the very fine "Traffic." Ensemble casts and dense plot lines seem to be his stock in trade.

"Syriana" probably could have been a very satisfying six-hour miniseries. I'm embarrassed to say that found myself struggling to follow it, and I'm usually a pretty careful viewer. I would watch it again...but there's that "bad things happen to kid(s)" problem.

Of course, my inability to completely follow the plot may have been due to the fact that I was mightily distracted by George Clooney. I usually am, but in this film, I was a bit discomfited (and impressed) by his 35-pound weight gain. He certainly deserved the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his subtle, heartbreaking performance as CIA operative Bob Barnes. I would have also given him the Directing Oscar for the stunningly great "Good Night, and Good Luck," but then, I'd give him an Oscar just for being George Clooney.

See "Syriana," and let me know what you think. But if you're a parent, you might just want to skip the pool party sequence. (Note: Big spoiler ahead.)

Not to mention the convoy-in-the-desert scene at the end of the film. What is it with these directors? Don't they have kids? And why does the death of the prince's two small children, whose seem to function as collateral damage, seem to hold less cinematic weight (their death comes almost at the end of the movie) than the death of the son of Matt Damon's character?

Wait, I think I can answer that. I just don't want to.

(Photo courtesy of spcoon.)

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