I had been looking forward to watching Syriana since I’d read an article about it nearly three months ago. Back then, the movie seemed to have all the elements that would prompt me to eagerly await its release: Middle Eastern politics, the relationship between US and Arab leaders, and, of course, George Clooney (I hope the husband is not reading).
After we watched it last night, I came to the conclusion that while the movie is intriguing, with an engaging script, it could have been directed better as I found some parts of the film confusing and extremely hard to follow. The film revolves around oil and the world of corruption that surrounds it, sending one central message: Oil affects us all. However, I could not fully understand the behind-the-scenes politics of the oil industry in the US. Maybe it was just me, but for some reason I could not connect the dots on a number of occasions.
A number of my friends expressed concern that the movie might be condescending to Arabs, but after watching it I felt that despite some Arab clichés, the flick was more critical of the US pursuit of oil than anything else. Actually, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee thought the movie was acceptable and highly recommended it. Here is an excerpt from their press release.
The overriding plot does not vilify the Arab world, its people, religions, or cultures, but rather creates a world in which evil feeds off of itself, much to the detriment of Arab and American societies. Money determines everything, and individuals, including oil company executives, Arab princes and covert CIA operatives, are expendable.
Syriana is an entertaining, if not always completely lucid, thriller, representing many of the anxieties in post-9/11 America. It represents a commendable effort to deal seriously with numerous troubling aspects of the relationship between US and Arab societies, and as such is highly recommended by ADC.
The use of the Arabic language in the film was an issue for me, as it wasn’t consistent, proving a bit annoying at times. The Arab-speaking characters in the movie spoke both classical and colloquial dialects, which I thought undermined the authenticity of some situations. Also, Alexander Siddiq, the actor playing the role of prince Nasir, spoke with an accented Arabic that really got to me. Was it really that difficult to find someone that spoke proper Arabic? Hearing George Clooney speak in my native tongue was really priceless, although I could not understand a word of what he was saying beyond ‘Shukran’ and so had to revert to subtitles.
All in all, despite its glitches, the movie is worth your time and money. It’s insightful and touches upon a basic commodity that is currently making our world go round if not ruining it at times.