Syriana, that is. I finally saw it last night.Stephen Gaghan, who already earned his spurs by writing Traffic, is this time also in the director’s chair, taking to heart the lessons learned from his experiences with Soderbergh. The film is tight—a little too tight for my tastes, as I wanted to see a little more of the characters—but extremely intelligent. There will be many naysayers, and according to Gaghan in an interview with Charlie Rose, during some of the DC screenings, some more conservative audience members got up and walked out.It’s no surprise. Syriana doesn’t pull punches.There’s a scene of note, wherein Clooney’s Bob Barnes is in a car in Beirut, the car is stopped by armed men, and Barnes is taken out, a hood thrown over his head, and he’s taken to speak with the spiritual head of Hamas. The scene has a great quality to it, and in the interview I learned why—the exact same thing happened to Gaghan when he went to Beirut for research. In the airport, just arriving, he got an anonymous call from a “friend of a friend” of Robert Baer, who said he should get into a car waiting outside. Some mix of stupidity and artistic curiosity convinced him to accept the stranger’s invitation, and what followed was pretty much what he wrote for Clooney’s character—he too ended up in a room with the spiritual leader of Hamas.As expected, given the roster of actors, the performances are, really without exception, superb. In particular, there’s the storyline of the young Pakistani who slowly becomes a suicide bomber. This could easily have been the Achilles heel of the movie, but astute writing and impeccable acting give it great power.Just see it. I’m obviously a little gaga about it right now, and I’ll need to watch it a couple more times before I can speak with much sense about it. All I know is, Syriana’s my favorite film of the year. No question about it.
(Originally posted at the Contemporary Nomad)