SYRIANA (12/9/2005)
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright

My Rating: 8/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 72%

PLOT: A politically charged epic about the state of the oil industry in the hands of those personally involved and affected by it.

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“Syriana” reminds me of one of those puzzles made out of twisted nails, where the challenge is to untangle them, even though it appears to be impossible. The difference is, with “Syriana”, I don’t get tired of trying. At least, not yet.

The movie is a pleasure to watch, but hard to explain. It’s a convoluted tale that starts with an impending merger between two oil companies, detours into political and legal intrigue, and sprinkles in some religious fanaticism by the time we get to the end. I’ve watched it five times, and I still have questions about the plot. I JUST watched it, and I’m still not entirely sure who Christopher Plummer’s character is and why he matters at all to the story.

Normally, a movie this confusing would turn me off. (Examples: “Full Frontal” [2002], “The Fountain” [2006], “The Counselor” [2013]) But when I watch “Syriana”, I get the sense that, underneath the twisty plot and maddeningly oblique dialogue, there lurks a great truth. Maybe the plot is confusing because, really, the situation it’s describing is so confusing in real life. Maybe any attempt to parse the complexities of U.S. relations with oil-producing countries is a fool’s gambit to begin with. So the movie just jumps in with both feet and separates the watchers from the listeners. You’ve really got to ACTIVELY listen for two hours to make ANY sense of the movie.

Maybe that’s not your thing. Fair enough. This is the kind of movie that I can’t defend on objective grounds. You’re either gonna like it or not. For myself, I get sucked into it every time I watch, even if I don’t understand it all 100%. So. There you go.

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