3.3 16
Director: Stephen Gaghan

Cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright


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Oil drives greed in Oscar-winning Traffic screenwriter Stephen Gaghan's labyrinthine sophomore directorial effort that traces the corruption of the global oil industry from the backrooms of Washington, D.C., to the petroleum-rich fields of the Middle East. Based in part on the writings of former CIA case officer Robert Baer, Syriana combines multipleSee more details below


Oil drives greed in Oscar-winning Traffic screenwriter Stephen Gaghan's labyrinthine sophomore directorial effort that traces the corruption of the global oil industry from the backrooms of Washington, D.C., to the petroleum-rich fields of the Middle East. Based in part on the writings of former CIA case officer Robert Baer, Syriana combines multiple storylines to explore the complexities that befall a proposed merger between two U.S. oil giants. Reform-minded Gulf country prince Nasir (Alexander Siddig) is in favor of making his nation more self-sufficient rather than U.S.-reliant, and his money-minded Western connections couldn't be less pleased. Before settling into a cushy desk job for the remainder of his career, CIA agent Bob Barnes (George Clooney) is sent on one last assignment -- to assassinate Prince Nasir and reinstate U.S. ties in the oil-rich region. Though his loyalty dictates that Barnes carry out his current mission despite lingering doubts of a previous blunder, his mission goes horribly awry when his field contact goes turncoat and Barnes becomes a CIA scapegoat. Meanwhile, up-and-coming Washington attorney Bennett Holiday (Jeffrey Wright) attempts to walk a fine line in overseeing a tenuous merger between two oil giants that's plagued with shady business dealings. Hotshot energy analyst Bryan Woodman (Matt Damon) is in talks to form a lucrative partnership with Prince Nasir, though the death of his son during a party at the prince's estate makes him question his loyalty to business over family. Back in Washington, D.C., Bennet's boss Dean Whiting attempts to undermine Prince Nasir's attempts to make his country less reliant on the U.S. dollar by planting the seeds of dissonance between the progressive prince and his money-minded younger brother Prince Meshal (Akbar Kurtha).

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
Provocative and engrossing, Syriana takes an uncompromising look at our nation's dependence on foreign oil and the inevitable consequences of that dependence. Oscar-winning Traffic screenwriter and sophomore director Stephen Gaghan explores the nexus of American business interests, foreign policy, and political intrigue, using multiple, intertwined story lines to explore how our national thirst for oil has produced a subculture of corruption that, in one way or another, touches us all. The film's tapestry of protagonists includes George Clooney in an Academy Award-winning turn as a jaded CIA operative sacrificed by superiors seeking to avoid responsibility for failed strategies. Matt Damon also impresses as the manipulative financial adviser to a progressive Arab sheik, Star Trek veteran Alexander Siddig, whose stated priorities make him a threat to Big Oil interests. The other main threads concern an ambitious corporate lawyer, played by Jeffrey Wright, who cuts deals with federal prosecutors investigating the suspicious merger of two petroleum companies; and an expatriate Pakistani youth (Mazhak Munir) driven by hopelessness into the arms of Islamic terrorists. Gaghan's sweeping criticism indicts the system that allows oil companies to reap huge profits and satisfy American consumers while disenfranchising Middle Easterners who feel increasingly powerless to control their own destiny. Syriana is a movie that demands much from its viewers; being marginally well informed about current international affairs can only help. Even so, you'll occasionally find it difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys -- which is likely what Gaghan had in mind all along
All Movie Guide - Perry Seibert
Syriana utilizes topical subject matter in order to put a human face on complicated world events. The film tells a very intricate story in that the actions of over a dozen characters all impact the others. Putting all the pieces together might require more than one viewing, but the performances are so vivid and the filmmaking so assured that one never feels lost during a viewing. With this many characters and plot threads it is easy for directors to trip, but Stephen Gaghan manages to make each scene feel like it is in the right place at the right time. The film shows an obvious debt to not only Steven Soderbergh's Traffic (which Gaghan scripted), but also such gritty, paranoid '70s films as All the President's Men. George Clooney plays very much against type as a burned-out CIA agent, based on a real CIA agent whose nonfiction book served as the jumping off point for the film. His performance exudes a weariness that he has never shown before. The most underappreciated actor of his time, Jeffrey Wright turns in yet another pitch-perfect performance as a lawyer who keeps his motivations hidden. Matt Damon does angry and articulate as well as anybody, and he benefits greatly from some outstanding speeches. These performers, and all of the others as well, help keep the sprawling film to a digestible experience. The political content of the film is pretty basic; Gaghan simply hopes to show the human price paid when government and big business are so closely intertwined as to be almost indistinguishable.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Warner Home Video
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Additional scenes; Documentary: Weaving Reality Into Drama; A conversation with George Clooney; A conversation with Matt Damon; Make a change, make a difference; Theatrical trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
George Clooney Bob Barnes
Matt Damon Bryan Woodman
Jeffrey Wright Bennett Holiday
Chris Cooper Jimmy Pope
William Hurt Stan Goff
Tim Blake Nelson Danny Dalton
Amanda Peet Julie Woodman
Christopher Plummer Dean Whiting
Alexander Siddig Prince Nasir Al-Subaai
Mazhar Munir Wasid Ahmed Khan
Nicholas Reese Art Riley Woodman
Mark Strong Mussawi
Max Minghella Robby Barnes
Fritz Michel Security Guard
Akbar Kurtha Prince Meshal Al-Subaai
Viola Davis Marilyn Richards
William C. Mitchell Bennett Holiday, Sr.
Nicky Henson Sydney Hewitt
Robert Foxworth Tommy Thompson
Peter Gerety Lee Janus
David Clennon Donald Farish III
Nadim Sawalha Emir Hamad Al-Subaai
Shahid Ahmed Saleed Ahmed Khan
Sonnell Dadral Farooq
Jamey Sheridan Terry George
Tom McCarthy Fred Franks
Jayne Atkinson CIA Division Chief

Technical Credits
Stephen Gaghan Director,Screenwriter
Sarah Bradshaw Associate Producer
George Clooney Executive Producer
Ben Cosgrove Executive Producer
Alexandre Desplat Score Composer
Robert Elswit Cinematographer
Louise Frogley Costumes/Costume Designer
Daran Fulham Art Director
Elizabeth Greenberg Casting
Petur Hliddal Sound/Sound Designer
Alan Hook Art Director
Jennifer Fox Producer
Georgia Kacandes Producer
Avy Kaufman Casting
Lora Kennedy Casting
Elizabeth Kirkscey Associate Producer
Shannon Lail Associate Producer
Andrew Menzies Art Director
Michael Nozik Producer
Laurent Ott Art Director
Jeff Skoll Executive Producer
Steven Soderbergh Executive Producer
Tim Squyres Editor
Lucinda Syson Casting
Simon Warnock Asst. Director
Dan Weil Production Designer

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