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Movie Review: Syriana

Alternate Title: Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts, Absolutely

Story: I don't want to scare you off by saying this is a not a film for everyone. I also don't want you to skip this film because you have to do a bit of work just sitting in the audience. By work I mean you have to think and attempt to follow a very challenging storyline.

It was directed by Stephen Gaghan (Traffic) and inspired by ex-CIA agent Robert Baer's book (See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA War on Terrorism).

There are several storylines that do not intersect until close to the end.

1. Bob Barnes is a middle east CIA operative assigned to assassinate two Iranian arms dealers. He is also given the task of assassinating a Prince Nasir (the seemingly heir apparent to Syriana). When things go poorly, he is cut loose and abandoned by the CIA.

2. Prince Nasir's dissolution of a long partnership with Texan oil in favor of a Chinese oil company and his moderate views of where his country should be headed sets Washington bigwigs, Texan oilers and other creeps wild.

3. Meanwhile two Pakistani day laborers who have lost their jobs in the oil fields of Syriana and face deportment because of this new Chinese deal find acceptance, food and indoctrination with Islamic fundamentalist.

4. There are two other plot lines involving a DC lawyer looking for someone to hang out to dry so that the Justice dept. can okay a huge oil merger. And finally there is a American derivatives trader who lives in Geneva with his darling wife and two young sons who becomes a financial adviser to the Prince.It is the perfect storm filled with corruption, greed, murder, torture, plot twists and for those conspiracists out there (like me), a touch too close to real life.

I repeat that you have to think and pay close attention during the entire two plus hours of the movie. Is it worth it? I say, yes. Could it have been tightened and edited? Absolutely. Could a few of the story lines been ditched? Absolutely. Could some of the characters been developed more? Absolutely. Should you go to see it? Absolutely.

Acting: Everyone across the board is terrific. George Clooney (even with 35 more pounds of him) is still eye candy for this reviewer. He is wonderful as the war weary CIA agent. Alexander Siddig (he was the doctor on Deep Space Nine) is sensational as Prince Nasir. Jeffrey Wright can do no wong, ever. And Matt Damon holds his own as the derivatives trader. The supporting cast includes Christopher Plummer, Chris Cooper, William Hurt and Amanda Peet.

Predilection: I like political films.

Critters: Falcons and goats.

Soundtrack: Unobtrusive (I like that).

Opening Titles: Credits at the end.

Theater Audience: Packed for the first show on a Saturday morning.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: There is a torture scene that is very squirmy indeed.

Drift Factor: If you drift you lose.

Predictability Level: Sadly, high.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: There were some outstanding performances that could get a nod.

Soap Box: Foreign policy today is dictated by big business and that does nothing for the little guy like you and me.

Nit Picking: More editing was required.

Big Screen or Rental: Support important films like this and go to the big screen. For some of George Clooney;s other films, try renting: Good Night, and Good Luck, Ocean's Twelve, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Solaris, Ocean's, Eleven,The Perfect Storm, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Fail Safe, Three Kings, The Thin Red Line, Out of Sight, The Peacemaker, Batman & Robin and One Fine Day.

Length: a bit over two hours.