The acting is also stellar, which is to be expected from this all-star line-up.  Sporting an extra fifty pounds and a scraggly beard (worth the price of the rental alone), Clooney is excellent as the desperate CIA agent at the end of his career.  Damon, as always, is also good, giving nuance to the role of the grieving but greedy father.  Plummer is pure evil, and it’s nice to see Peet in such a serious role.  All of the actors in this ensemble, in fact, do a great job.  If only they had more screen time.

Because they don’t, their characters unfortunately lean toward the stereotypical.  This is perhaps more an issue of direction, which cuts scenes so short that there’s no time to see anything but surface.  The rogue CIA agent, the naïve young terrorist, the Iranian arms dealer, the progressive Arab, the greedy Texas oil magnate, the crooked D.C. lawyer – we’ve seen them all before, and Gaghan brings nothing new to the table.  Despite attempts to give this story shades of grey, most everyone comes across as either good or bad.  All they’re missing are the black and white ten-gallon hats.

“Syriana”'s confusing complexity is ironic, because its message is simple.  In “Traffic,” Gaghan showed us how complex the drug problem is, and how it’s driven by American demand.  Here, he attempts to do the same thing, hammering the point that as long as America is greedy for oil, corruption will abound.  It’s a good point, and one worth exploring.  But unfortunately, this film makes it too simple.  Nothing is ever that easy or clear-cut.  Even corruption.

DVD EXTRAS:

  • A Conversation with George Clooney – Clooney shares his thoughts on the making of the film, which was shot on location in Morocco.
  • “Make a Change, Make a Difference” – the filmmakers and actors discuss their views on the Middle East and American consumption of oil, with information about a web site people can visit.  They also discuss the making of the film, with more interview footage of Clooney.
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Theatrical Trailer 

AUDIENCE:  Adults

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Several scenes with drinking and possible drug use.
  • Language/Profanity:  Approximately a dozen profanities and obscenities, some strong.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  A woman changes from party clothes to Middle Eastern dress (no nudity).
  • Violence:   Many situations of extreme peril (guns, explosions, terrorism). One scene contains extremely graphic and bloody physical torture.