Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Directed by Stephen Gaghan

It was time for a double feature today in the Johnson world- is it painfully obvious I'm done with my semester before everyone else? Anyway, Syriana was a first rate film. I especially enjoy movies that challenge the viewer. The Godfather Part II is emblematic of this for me- you have to pay careful attention to understand everything that is going on, which I think reward careful filmwatching. Syriana definitely challenges the viewer- politically and narratively. Like its predecessor, Traffic, it has no easy answers for a difficult and pressing problem, presenting a pessimistic narrative. Also, like Traffic, it features fine performances and a gripping narrative scope.
It is always a good sign when a movie that runs longer than two hours can keep your attention rapt throughout, and this film does a fine job at that. My only complaint would be that the movie really is only an informative narrative, albeit one with a clear political perspective. To take on such avowedly political subject matter without a clear proposal in mind seems risky to me, unless the filmmakers think that the public needs to know what is going on in the crazy geopolitical world of oil barons and failed states. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed this film- with King Kong and Munich on the way, 2005 may be barely saved for us all.


Blogger ronvon2 noted on 12/13/2005 10:07:00 AM that...

and dont' forget Brokeback Mountain and The New World. This 2005 is actually ending with a bang.  

Blogger ronvon2 noted on 12/13/2005 11:25:00 PM that...

We just saw this today. Loved it. I am a huge fan of the complex political drama, and Gaghan does them extremely well.

The kid in the pool incident is such a wonderful and clever metaphor that captures the essence of the film (and the whole political and economic situation).  

Blogger Paul Johnson noted on 12/14/2005 12:01:00 AM that...

I hadn't even thought about the symbolic angle there

One thing I felt was overlooked was that it would have been interesting to see the face of l pro-Western citizens in Iran. The opening sequences with the woman changing from party heels into a shah revealed another promising but underplayed angle.  

Blogger Paul Johnson noted on 12/14/2005 12:03:00 AM that...

*shawl, not shah.  

Blogger ronvon2 noted on 12/14/2005 01:40:00 AM that...

Yep, that opening sequence is quite revealing (or un-revealing, so to speak).