"Syri-ously Dangerous Philosophy"
What You Need To Know:
SYRIANA stars George Clooney and Matt Damon in a taut political thriller of international intrigue and political profiteering that travels from Washington D.C. to the oil fields of the Middle East. SYRIANA weaves together multiple story lines with multiple characters and multiple locations that, at the beginning of the movie, are seemingly disconnected but, by the movie’s end, weave together to create a tapestry of intrigue that will have global consequences. Clooney plays a disillusioned CIA operative who must race to protect a prince he was hired to assassinate, but the movie’s sympathies clearly align with two young Middle Eastern men who look for acceptance and purpose in the teachings of a group of radical, Islamic fundamentalists training to become terrorists, or, in their definition, martyrs.
In its artistic expression, the movie is smart, multi-layered and of the highest quality that should be expected from Hollywood. The movie’s philosophies, however, are extremely dangerous. It demonizes the U.S. government as bloodthirsty profiteers and humanizes radical Islamic fundamentalist terrorists as heroic martyrs. The anti-capitalist politics and the anti-biblical, anti-Jewish theology of the film, coupled with the graphic violence and strong language, make SYRIANA a syria-ously dangerous movie.
(HHH, SoSoSo, PCPCPC, ACapACapACap, APAPAP, AbAbAb, FRFRFR, LLL, VVV, N, AAA, DD, MMM) Very strong humanist, socialist, politically correct worldview with very strong anti-capitalist and Anti-American content that demonizes big oil companies and the U.S. government for Middle East oil interests by painting them as materialistic fiends and heartless profiteers, as well as some very strong anti-biblical and anti-Jewish elements that depict Christian theology and Western philosophies as failing worldviews and empathize with Islamic terrorists; 25 obscenities (14 of which are “f” words), three profanities, and one crude gesture; very strong violence includes car exploding, a 6-yr-old boy is killed by an electrocution accident when he jumps into a pool that has a faulty wire on one of its pool lights (the electrocution itself is not depicted but the aftermath of the accident is), a few men are beaten by Middle Eastern military men at an immigration checkpoint because they were talking in line, two men go hunting and shooting at wild game, one man is assaulted in his hotel room and then gagged and tied up and thrown in a body bag and kidnapped, that same man is then tortured (graphically depicted) for information by having his fingernails ripped off, he is then beaten and punched into a bloody mess and his torturer threatens to cut his head off, the U.S. military assassinates a Middle Eastern prince and his wife and children by shooting a missile at their car simply because he wanted to do international trade with more countries than the U.S. alone, and terrorism depicted as two radicalized youths pilot a boat with a bomb on it right into an oil tanker; no sex or sexually explicit dialogue; non-sexual naturalistic upper nudity of young boys playing in a pool and a man’s chest and back is shown in torture scene, and one brief shot of a woman’s cleavage in dress; several shots and references to alcohol use; a lot of people smoking cigarettes, and one reference to drug use; and, very strong miscellaneous immorality such as blackmail, bribery, profiteering, breaking international trade laws, a reference to gambling, some racial comments and stereotypes made about the Chinese and the Arabs, poor father/son relationship depicted, lying, inhumane torture, assassination plots, and general dishonesty from U.S. politicians and U.S. business people.
SYRIANA is a taut political thriller from the same team that brought us the film TRAFFIC. The movie stars George Clooney and Matt Damon in a story of international intrigue and political profiteering that travels from the State Department in Washington D.C. all the way to the oil fields of the Middle East, and it is based on the non-fiction book SEE NO EVIL by Robert Baer.
In the tradition of TRAFFIC, director and screenwriter Stephen Gaghan uses a storytelling technique that weaves together multiple story lines with multiple characters and multiple locations that, at the beginning of the movie, are seemingly disconnected but, by the movie’s end, weave together to create a tapestry of intrigue that will have global consequences. From a disillusioned CIA operative who must race to protect a prince he was hired to assassinate; to a father who has lost his child and now finds himself as a financial advisor to that very same, wealthy Middle Eastern prince; to the head of major oil company who seeks a global merger and finds himself under investigation for seedy business deals; to the law firm investigator who must dig up dirt on that oil company but instead finds himself uncovering the unlawful practices of his own firm; to that very same Middle Eastern prince whose vision is to give his people economic freedom but finds himself in a revolt against his brother who has been named king; to the U.S. government officials who wish to protect their oil interests in the Middle East; to the young men who search for a family and a sense of purpose, and find it amongst a group of radical Islamic fundamentalist terrorists; SYRIANA’s script is handled with the deft proficiency expected from an Academy award-winning screenwriter.
The actors all do wonderful jobs. George Clooney breaks his suave leading man persona and completely steps into his character. Matt Damon steals the show with his performance. All of the others fill their characters with three-dimensional life and breath.
As director, Gaghan tackles the task of multi-location shooting with seamless transitions, defined pacing and complete professionalism. Apart from an uncomfortable-squirm-in-your-seat-torture scene that could have been shot more tactfully, the movie in its artistic execution is smart, multi-layered and of the highest quality that should be expected from Hollywood.
The movie’s philosophies, however, are extremely dangerous. The movie paints an all-too-bleak picture of big oil companies, and capitalism is shown to be a grossly perverted ideology that is interested only in the quest for the almighty dollar. The U.S. government is painted as a monstrous, capitalist group of killers and assassins whose only end goal is, not the liberation of oppressed nations and people, but the security of its personal oil interests in order to maintain a powerful presence in the global economy.
Also dangerous in this movie is the “human interest” story. Every good screenwriter knows that in order to captivate the audience a movie requires, apart from an excellent, seamless story, a “human interest.” That is: the audience not only needs to be able to empathize with a particular character’s plight, but also needs to be able to relate to the humanity of that character. Hence the term “human interest.” This feature, however, moves at such a pace to get the multi-layered plot completely divulged that much of the human interest of the characters is lost. There are many stereotypes: the bottom-line businessman, the cold-hearted bureaucrat, etc. Apart from one character who must deal with the accidental death of his six-year-old son early in the story, there is not much other “human interest,” except for one story line: the two young Middle Eastern men who are looking for acceptance and purpose for their lives. Where do they find this purpose? They find it in the teachings of a group of radical, Islamic fundamentalists who are training to become terrorists, or, in their definition, martyrs.
It should be noted that martyr means witness. For early Christians, the martyrs were those who were persecuted unto death for their witness, as opposed to so-called Muslim martyrs who kill as their witness. As Osama Bin Laden has noted, Christianity is a religion of life, while Islam is a religion of death. He may not have understood the implications of this summary that Jesus Christ sacrificed himself for our sins so that we might have new life in Him right now and forever, while Muslims look forward to death and paradise.
The writer makes the audience sit through several “lessons” of the spiritual leaders of this radical group. He forces viewers to swallow the philosophies of their version of the Koran which teaches us that the liberal societies do not offer the answer, nor does failed Christian theology; only the Koran can bring life. Viewers also have to listen to the testimonies of would-be terrorists, and the director forces the audience to take this as the “human interest” story of the movie. That way, when the two young men pilot their boat carrying a bomb into a large, U.S. capitalist oil tanker at the end of the film, we can empathize with these “heroes.”
The anti-capitalist politics and the anti-Biblical/anti-Jewish theology of the film, coupled with the graphic violence and strong language, make SYRIANA a syria-ously dangerous movie.