Syriana - quick review

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Patrick Sun, Dec 9, 2005.

  1. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    I liked how Gaghan was able to weave seemingly unrelated characters threads in this film, which depicts how powerful forces like the oil industry, political factions of different countries, intelligence agencies, and terrorists converge, to show that even in ever-changing political/economic climates, the resultant mixture in flux may seem like oil and water, but it still provides economic and political benefit to the players, but not without getting their hands dirty or producing undesirable by-products.

    It's a very subdued film, not much background music to intrude on the events as they unfold, and while it seems calm on the surface of things, it's constantly boiling underneath the calm facade.

    I give it 3.5 stars, or a grade of B+.
     
  2. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    i was given a pass to this for the press screening here the other night, but never went.
    i did want to see it, but by the time the evening rolled around, the thought of going to a movie that would be very dense and require a lot of careful attention all to tell me something i already know (that everything related to oil is intertwined and corrupted in some form or fashion) just didn't seem that appealing.


    Ebert gave it 4 stars, and his review did perk up my interest a little, but i will still have to overcome a creeping lethargy to go out and see this.
    most likely, i'll just wait until it hits dvd.
     
  3. Chad R

    Chad R Cinematographer

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    It is a dense film that requires careful attention, but honestly you're not rewarded for it all that much. Whereas all of the performances are good, none are stellar. Whereas the script is smart, it's not particularly sharp. And by the end, you've been told a very complex story which reaches conclusions that's pretty well-known. There's nothing revelatory about it.

    It's like if all of the elements (acting, directing, editing) had their volume turned up one notch, it would be great. As it is, I'd say a grade of B.
     
  4. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    This is a story that could have easily spiralled out of control in the hands of lesser talent. There is a certain amount of detachment built into the script, so the viewer is less apt to get too emotionally involved.
     
  5. Dave Hahn

    Dave Hahn Second Unit

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    Charlie Rose devoted his entire PBS show last night to an interview of Stephen Gaghan. It was simply fascinating. This guy did some serious research for this film. He literally met with several sheiks and other Middle East leaders, as well as CIA operatives, American and European oil traders, congressmen and senators, powerful DC lawyers, and top level oilmen. The guy even had a clandestine meeting with the head of Hezbollah in Beirut.

    From watching the interview, all the characters in the film are either based on actual figures or are composite characters of the real thing. He said he had to tone down the dialogue and plot because nobody would believe the way the actual people he charactorized spoke and acted. He said audiences would think it was "over the top" if he used actual conversations in the script.

    A very interesting man and writer. I can't wait to see this film.
     
  6. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    Am finishing up the autobiography "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" [highly recommended read] so I'm really looking forward to this movie.
     
  7. Mike.P

    Mike.P Second Unit

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    I was a bit disappointed by this - I felt it was always just a few steps from being something great. It was entertaining, but I really wish I left with a more satisfied feeling.

    As it stands, a B- in my book. Add in some clarification/character development in some parts, cut some needless parts at other times, and it can easily be a solid B+ or better.
     
  8. Rob Willey

    Rob Willey Screenwriter

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    I agree with the consensus here. Great parts that don't add up to more than the sum of those parts. But I enjoyed it and would recommend it.

    Rob
     
  9. Craig S

    Craig S Producer

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    Like Rob, I'm in general agreement with most here. It seems the elements were all in place for a great film, but in the end it was "merely" very good. I would still strongly recommend it to all viewers who don't mind occasionally NOT checking their brains at the door of the theater.

    Like Dave, I caught the Charlie Rose show with Gaghan last week. Wow! The unexpurgated story of his research might make a better film than Syriana turned out to be. At the very least I hope he writes a book on the experience one day.

    BTW, for those who saw the Rose show, how old would you say Gaghan looked to be? I was shocked at how young he looked, and would have put him between 25 and 30. Turns out he's
    a very well-preserved 40!!
     
  10. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    A "very well-preserved 40
    ? Craig, 40 is not considered "old" except by teenagers. Get real!
     
  11. Kyle_D

    Kyle_D Second Unit

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    I really liked this a lot, particularly how it didn't simplify the problems in the middle east to something easily digestible by audiences. Everyone gets their fair share of blame in this and if the movie feels messy, well, the situation it depicts is messy. It might not pack a massive emotional sucker-punch, though

    The death of Matt Damon's child and Clooney's moment with Prince Nassir before the assassination were pretty devestating. Everyone in the audience I saw it with jumped.


    It sure is smarter and more ambitious than most tripe out there, and it kept me involved throughout. Actually, I was pretty fascinated by it and the more I put together the pieces of the plot in my head, the more I like it.

    Overall, I'd give it an A-
     
  12. Craig S

    Craig S Producer

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    Jack, I realize the phrase is not normally used to decribe someone of his age (and I'm not saying he's "old" by any stretch of the imagination), but I couldn't think of any other way to describe HOW much younger he looks than his age. BTW, I'm 48, maybe that's why he looked so young to me! [​IMG]

    No matter what his age, he's a damn talented writer.
     
  13. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Well, Craig, that post certainly puts a different light on things! [​IMG]
     
  14. Nathan V

    Nathan V Supporting Actor

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    Thoughts-

    I have a feeling this is a film that must be seen twice- once to soak in the atmosphere and performances and situations, and another time to comprehend the story. I attempted to do both in my first viewing, which I think was a mistake. Too much intellectual thought spent outside of taking in what is happening onscreen moment for moment (which is what I try to do most of the time) distracted from my ability to appreciate the perf's, etc. About an hour into the film I said to myself, "wow, I have no clue what the hell's happening!" Regardless, I'd give it 3.5 stars on first viewing. The film does an excellent job of capturing a sense of "the global;" that is, conveying the complex nature of interconnected events in different places across the globe. Sort of capturing the "dance" that all these players perform, without quite knowing how everything's going down (Ebert says in his review, none of the characters know exactly what's going on, so why should we?). The film truly lives up to its tagline "everything is connected." That is the dominant idea I took away after first viewing. It accomplishes this 'global interconnectedness' better than perhaps any film I've seen. That the story is not in any way dumbed down to be comprehendable to average audiences was a great relief. I greatly look forward to seeing this again. On a scene by scene basis, the film is excellent. Gaghan has a very unique way of starting and especially ending scenes which I also noticed in Traffic- usually starting/ending right in the middle of something, and showing us the "in between" moments as often, or more often, than 'actual moments,' if that makes sense. The scene in which the Jeffrey Wright character is introduced is a perfect example. It ends about 15-20 seconds after it would traditionally begin in a normal film. Also, the level of detail, both plot-wise and physically (locations, etc) is rather astounding. The level of atmosphere in the middle east scenes is palpable. Note the opening scene with Clooney with its use of subdued natural lighting and lower-t-mid level medium shots. Great stuff. Clooney's performance is outstanding, especially his eyes- they have a haunted quality here that I have not seen in his other roles. The man deserves every nomination he can get. Gaghan's use of music and overall sound editing (Soderberghian sound introductions of scenes, minimalistic use of music and frequent withdrawl of natural sound) is admirable. The man has certainly learned a thing or two from watching Soderbergh, and readapting it to a different style. Gaghan and Robert Elswit's framing is also quite good, lots of long-lens closeups and great focus pulling. The minimalization of color is interesting, and matches the gray-blue emotional state of these business brokers and political people. Good decisions by Gaghan to set the scenes, which are almost exclusively dialogue, in as varied locations and times of day as possible- hotels, cars, campfires, deserts, meeting rooms, warehouses, barbecues- really keeps the visual interest going. The climactic moments stated above by Kyle D were extremely devastating for me, especially the Clooney-Nassir moment. Something about that recognition is just absolutely haunting. So beautiful and heartbreaking and great. I look forward to seeing this again.

    In a phrase, it was quietly engrossing. A- for now. This may go up later.

    Regards,
    Nathan
     
  15. Kirk Tsai

    Kirk Tsai Screenwriter

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    I think Patrick is entirely correct to say that detachment is built into the script. With the Damon character's tragedy, Gaghan brings in questionable motives through the wife. With Clooney, just about when he can redeem himself, Gaghan doesn't allow it, and doesn't linger over for a minute. I admire this emotional detachment, but it doesn't have the power that Traffic had for me. Still, with these two films, Gaghan certainly is one of the most thoughtful and ambitious screenwriters around (OTOH, the less that is said about The Rules of Engagement, the better).
     
  16. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Producer

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    All the damned shaky-cam gave me a headache, too. C-.
     
  17. Kyle_D

    Kyle_D Second Unit

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    I didn't feel that way at all. The whole point of the movie is to show how convoluted the situation in the Middle East is and how, despite what we may be told, there is no simple solution to it. Everything is too intertwined to unwind.

    I'll borrow an idea from Roger Ebert that I felt when watching the movie. The plot doesn't serve as a "plot", where the narrative moves from event to event; it serves as a web of atmosphere. There were times in the movie where I felt lost, but I knew I was supposed to feel lost, and I was never less than fascinated.
     
  18. John Nguyen

    John Nguyen Extra

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    I really wanna go see that
     
  19. Nick C.

    Nick C. Second Unit

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    Great stuff, I had a question in regards to the Whiting (Plummber)/Barnes (Clooney) scene:

    Since the Barnes/former colleague (William Hurt character) in the movie theater scene immediately preceded Barnes threatening Whiting in the restaurant, are we to believe that Whiting is responsible for the CIA's turning its back on Barnes? I thought it was clear the CIA superior (Terry) told Fred and Marilyn to "frame" Barnes and distance the agency from him, but how does Whiting connect?
     
  20. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Producer

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    Interesting concept. Maybe if I saw it again, I'd get more out of it. The damned shakycam still gave me a headache, though! [​IMG]
     

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