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Big oil means big money. Very big money. And that fact unleashes corruption that stretches from Houston to Washington to the Mideast and ensnares industrialists, princes, spies, politicos, oilfield laborers and terrorists in a deadly, deceptive web of move and countermove. This lightning-paced, whip-smart action thriller grips your mind and nerves with an intensity that doesn't let go for an instant.
Syriana"span" is an oil-based soap opera set against the world of global oil cartels. It is to the oil industry as Traffic"span" was to the drug trade (no surprise, since writer/director Stephen Gaghan wrote the screenplay to Traffic"span"): a sprawling attempt to portray the vast political, business, social, and personal implications of a societal addiction, in this case, oil. A major merger between two of the worlds largest oil companies reveals ethical dilemmas for the lawyer charged with making the deal (Jeffrey Wright), and major global implications beyond the obvious; a CIA operative (George Clooney) discovers the truth about his work, and the people he works for; a young oil broker (Matt Damon) encounters personal tragedy, then partners with an idealistic Gulf prince (Alexander Siddig) attempting to build a new economy for his people, only to find hes opposed by powers far beyond his control. Meanwhile, disenfranchised Pakistani youths are lured into terrorism by a radical Islamic cleric. And thats just the start. As in Traffic"span", in one way or another all of the characters fates are tied to each other, whether they realize it or not, though the connections are sometimes tenuous. While Syriana"span" is basically a good film with timely resonance, it cant quite seem to measure up to Gaghans ambitious vision and it very nearly collapses under the weight of its many storylines. Fortunately they are resolved skillfully enough to keep the film from going under in the end. To some viewers, Syriana"span" will seem like an unfocused and over-loaded film that goes, all at once, everywhere and nowhere. Others will find it to be an important work earnestly exploring major issues. In either case, its a film that deserves to be taken seriously, and its likely to be one that will be talked about for a long time to come. --Dan Vancini