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Syriana

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Saw this on PPV at my mom's.  I had heard some good things about it.  But I hadn't heard anything about the plot.  The movie certainly had some good actors.   Matt Damon, Amanda Peet (small part, no nudity, but still cute) Christopher Plummer, George Clooney.

It starts out with Clooney selling some military eqipment to some Middle Easterners, it turns out in Bagdad.  I was thinking maybe Stingers, but later it appeared to be light anti-tank weapons.  There was some sort of electronic key that had to be installed.  Nothing I've ever heard of before, but not done up like a Hollyweird plot device.  It never played a big role, but it caught my attention.

Clooney sells two of them to a guy, and someone starts to drag one away.  He says, "I thought both were for you?"

"What do you care?" is the reply.

As Clooney walks away, one of them blows up behind him.  Apparently, the other was supposed to be alongside and destroyed, too.  The fact that the missile is loose was a minor plot point later.  The US was telling other countries that it wasn't involved in that area, and now there's this piece of evidence.  Not a huge thing.  Just one small piece of the puzzle for the higher-ups.

The story immediately jumps to another location.  It jumped around a lot.   Bagdad, Washington D.C., Spain, I think, other places in the Middle East.  All of us watching felt that we weren't able to follow who was who.  Who was allied with who.  What each group wanted.  Who knew about who else.

It felt a little bit like a Clancy novel.  The story was kind of at the same levels of power.  On the one hand, we have heads of state in the Middle East.   Heads of companies in the US.  Some mid-level people, like Clooney's character.  An experienced operative with many connections built over the years.   Matt Damon, trying to influence the Middle Eastern heads to his company's advantage.  And an accountant doing due diligence over a huge merger.  And then a few Middle Eastern grunts and their training in Islamic suicide school.

The problem is, unlike a Clancy novel, we don't have the 300 pages of background before the action starts.  I was able to pick up some bits.  Damon's character was dealing with the emir's eldest son.  Hmm, that's all that jumps to mind right now.   All the rest were a mystery.

I never figured out who the top CIA people were aligned with.  And I never figured out which people were with which company in the merger.  Nor even what the two copmanies did.  And, I never found out who was controlling the suicide bombers.   Nor who captured Clooney in the middle of the movie.

This is a movie I really wanted to like.  It wasn't full of Hollyweird silliness.   It had an air of authenticity, albeit clearly a work of fiction.  It felt like there was an important message in there, about the power struggles going on over control of oil, and the fate of the people in the Middle East.

But I just couldn't follow it.

On my brother's Total Movie Value Scale, Cable with Dinner.  Top notch actors and high production values.  But not enough background so I could follow the motives of the characters.

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Last modified: October 17, 2006
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