Thursday, December 15, 2005

Movie: Syriana (2005)

Is the movie complicated? Yes, deliberately but not excessively so. Stephen Gaghan’s political thriller isn’t just set in an era of globalization. It takes the concept on as its subject. With so many relationships – between nations, corporations, even individuals – built on shifting sands, any neat definitions offered at the outset would be false. So Gaghan doesn’t bother with them, trusting the audience to work out agendas large and small on the fly. Hard work, but worth it.

He still should have explained the title, though. People were asking about it on the way out of the theater. It’s a think tank term for a reshaped Middle East.

The ensemble cast is great, from Fat Clooney on down. Jeffrey Wright plays the most compelling character, a lawyer whose inspiring, up-from-nothing personal history feeds his sense that he’s better than everyone else – which sets him up to commit crimes on a truly epic scale. Gaghan knows how to write dialogue for power brokers, and Christopher Plummer knows how to deliver it. His casual reference to “the second creepiest party I’ve ever been to” is scarier than both SAW movies put together.

Miscellaneous: Link

It’s not on a par with Christopher Hitchens taking on Mother Teresa, but it’s close: Paul Theroux thinks Bono should stop minding Africa’s business.