December 16 - 22, 2005 • Vol. 25 - No. 50

Lead Story
Cafe E&V
Fine Arts
Talent Billboard
Real Estate

(Coming Soon)
Event Planning

Web email
Music Releases

Syriana—Fact or Fiction?

by The Blonde and The Maven
Film Columnists


The writer and director of Syriana is Stephen Gaghan, who also wrote the screenplay (and won an Oscar for) Traffic. His starting point for the story was the book "See No Evil," written by former CIA operative Robert Baer in 2002 as a memoir of his days at the CIA as a field agent. Syriana is a fictional story that applies real world parallels. To give a concise synopsis is near impossible, but here goes!
There are multiple story lines that weave together…EVENTUALLY! Syriana not so much about good guys versus bad guys as it is about who has power and who doesn't. In this case, the power is oil or controlling those who have oil. There are the players brokering deals in Washington, like Jimmy Pope, who is the CEO of Killen Oil Co. Jimmy, played by Chris Cooper (Jarhead and The Bourne Identity), is a good old boy wildcatter in the oil biz. His company is small, but has just acquired the rights to drill in Kazakhstan. The larger oil company, Connex, has just lost a deal to the Chinese in the same area. Now there is a proposed merger of the two oil companies, which will create a really big monopoly in the Persian Gulf, so the Justice Department will of course have to approve this merger. Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music and Must Love Dogs) plays Dean Whiting, a well-connected attorney whose firm is hired to handle the political implications of the merger. He assigns Bennett Holiday, played by a very cold and proper Jeffrey Wright (The Manchurian Candidate and Ali), to investigate the two companies and make sure the merger takes place. Threaded throughout the story lines is Robert Barnes, a scruffy, slightly overweight George Clooney (Good Night and Good Luck and Oceans 12), who is a CIA field operative who has worked this area for many years. The deal that started all the buzz was handled by Prince Nasir Al-Subbai, portrayed by Alexander Siddug (The Kingdom of Heaven and the TV series “Deep Space Nine”), the future Emir (of unknown country) and a very reform minded royal who doesn't want to be under the thumb of the USA. This makes him unpopular with the power brokers of Washington and leads to a deal between them and the younger Prince Meshal. Also thrown into the mix is a story of a disenfranchised Pakistani teenager who falls prey to a charismatic cleric who is recruiting for glory seeking suicide bombers. One more important character is Bryan Woodman, played by Matt Damon (Oceans 12 and The Bourne Supremacy). He is an energy analyst based in Geneva who suffers a tragedy that bonds him to Prince Nasir.
As you meet each of these characters, you may reinterpret your opinion, as it will change when the stories come together. Don't try to connect the characters, because in real life they don't connect at all. Only through the telling of the story do they intertwine, but remember they don't know the back story of each other, so why should you?

The Blonde: OY, I AM SO CONFUSED! Syriana was like The Constant Gardner meets Crash meets Traffic meets the present, WHO ALL MEET UP WITH MICHAEL MOORE! Although I very much liked this film, it was not only difficult to watch because the story infuriated me, but it was hard to follow as well. The subject matter was quite complex and I think the director chose to tell it in an even more complex way, perhaps to create more mystery and suspense. Unfortunately, it actually just made it harder to follow. In addition, it was too slow at times; however, it does finally build into an interesting tale. This film is surreal, uncomfortable and actually ironic.

The Maven: I didn't feel like such a “maven” watching this film. The plot was so complex, I felt the need to take notes in order to "Google" everything I didn't know. Eventually, I realized I could surround myself with the story, but not have to follow it to the letter. I learned that Congress can hold all the hearings it wants to, but they will never understand the whole picture! There are just too many hands in the pie and we are so culturally different that you will not understand all the motives involved. If the people of this country believe they are informed about government policy, they are sadly mistaken. Even the government doesn't want to know. They are comfortable with using only the intelligence that supports their theories or goals. By government, I don't mean republicans and democrats. It is obvious that big business (the oil industry, in this case) sets policy. Syriana was a slow moving thriller that fascinated me from beginning to end. Every actor gave a good performance.

The Blonde: Wow, aren't we totally political today! The one thing I did like about the subject matter of this film is that it gets us to think. It opens our eyes, and exposes the fact about how naive we are as American citizens to the massive degree of complexities and the enormous amount of corruption surrounding us right before our very eyes. I think we need to become more aware and not be so blind to what is happening all around us. I have a headache from all this thinking. Remember, I am a natural blonde!  I really need a Starbucks latte now and some crumb cake. Anyway, this film had some serious star power. What a cast.

The Maven: NATURAL, RIGHT! The mirror of a good film is that it makes you think about it long after you leave the theater. George Clooney can hold his head high after this one. He executively produced this (as well as Good Night and Good Luck) and I know I will look forward to his future endeavors. I would love to be a fly on the wall in any oil company boardroom and hear what they think of the movie. My heart goes out to those CIA operatives who spent all that time and energy cultivating relationships with whatever religious cleric was in power, only to have his own company turn their back on them when the politics of the region changed. Why can't our so-called brilliant strategists do a better job? I am sorry to bore you all with my politics, but this movie really gets your juices flowing. It's not so much anti establishment as it is anti-corruption. How many more times will we back a corrupt regime just to further our own interests?

The Blonde: Twelve more times? Okay, ten. Am I getting close? More important than everything the Mav said, I am tired of the past few Clooney films making such a hunk of a guy look bad. I want more gorgeous Clooney. I need more gorgeous Clooney. Bring back, bring back, bring back my gorgeous Clooney to me!!!!!  I mean really, with all the lies, deceit and corruption this film displays for us, do we also need to deal with an ugly Clooney. I SAY NO!  I'm too upset to continue. I need to go shopping. I'm going to the mall. At least the only bad thing I might find there is missing a good sale!

The Maven: Hey Blonde, since you are going to be in Las Vegas for New Year’s, (ha ha, no Donald and Mar-A-Logo this year) and I seriously doubt Brad will be joining you (or me), I will have to find another gig for the night. Did you check out the evening Muvico Premiere Bistro in Boca has scheduled? For only $75, they have a great buffet planned with Prime Rib, Asparagus Risotto, Almond Chicken Salad, Pate, and a bunch of other foods. Of course the movie and popcorn is included, as well as champagne. I'm there!!  Last time we ate there, Chef Adam made me a Mango Duck Salad and I noticed it's now on their new menu. So is that Salmon dish I like so well. If we go two or three times a week, we could cover the whole menu in no time!

The Blonde: Why would you mention that New Year's Eve Soiree and not mention where to call? That's just like you to think only of yourself! Hey readers, call Genevieve at 561-395-0603. Tell them The Maven and The Blonde sent you!

The Maven: Maybe I want to keep the Prime Rib for myself, you big mouth! Now everyone will come and they will monopolize Chef Adam. I had planned to do that myself! Well, at least I can console myself with the knowledge that Britney has kicked that party boy freeloader, Kevin, out. I hope she doesn't weaken and let him back into her life like another singer I know used to do all the time. SO, are you still homeless?

The Blonde: OUCH, YES, ouch! YES, I am still homeless. I am finding the Mall like a home these days. I did get some great deals on shoes! Think we should return to the film, though, don't you?

The Maven: As far as Syriana goes, I hope the Oscars pay attention. There were some riveting performances that did not rely on any special effects. I would love to have known more about William Hurt's character, Stan. He is always so interesting on screen, in a minimal sort of way.

The Blonde: I am not so sure about Oscar here. The actors did a fine job, but Oscar, I don't think so.

The Maven: To wrap things up, I thoroughly enjoyed Syriana. It is definitely for adults as there is no instant gratification for any conflicts. That torture scene was difficult to watch, but at least it didn't go on and on. The film is very straightforward and has a realistic look about it. There is no sugar coating the reality. I rate it an A for the anger it stirred in me.

The Blonde: I found this film too close for comfort and quite disturbing to watch. It makes greed and deception too much a reality to hide from anymore. I do say, go and see for yourself. I rate Syriana a B+. I like any film that brings truth to the forefront. For your movie snacks, you will NEED a lot of popcorn to take out your anger on. I also suggest some rock candy and jaw breakers to bite down on during the upsetting scenes.

THE BLONDE AND THE MAVEN: We would like to say a final goodbye to one of the greatest comics of all time, Richard Pryor. Thank you, Richard, for all the laughter you gave this world through the years. You will never be forgotten.

All content property of Entertainment News & Views © 2003. Nothing that appears on this site may be reproduced, either wholly or in part, without the written permission of the publishers and solely at their discretion.

About Us | Advertising Information| Employment | Contact Us

Copyright 2001, Entertainment News and Views
All Rights Reserved