Page 2 of 2 FirstFirst 12
Results 16 to 21 of 21

Thread: A Flawed Movie

  1. #16
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Raleigh, NC
    Posts
    1,554
    The film and other films at that like site above bring into the question the theory there was secret government involvement with 9/11 and the Iraq invasion. I didn't realize everyone doesn't have broadband (Did I just use a double negative? ...and I call myself a writer!). At any rate, you'll need a broadband connection to view it, but its definitely worth it.

  2. #17
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,495
    Normally I have broadband. Today I am in New York and I don't have much access to it.

    I am an active student of the Middle East so I may know something about this material. There are lots of theories about 9/11 which I view with scepticism. I have really looked into a lot of this stuff. I still think, for Syriana background, read Richard Baer's two books about the CIA and oil.

  3. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Montreal
    Posts
    261

    Syri-Huh?

    SYRIANA
    Written & Directed by Stephen Gaghan


    As human beings, we are able to detach ourselves from injustices and hardships taking place throughout the rest of the world. Disassociation is not merely a capability, it is often a necessity for survival of the mind. Film going is often thought to be a primary means of exercising this need. Escaping into the dark of the cinema to avoid the world’s problems is both common and effective, even when dealing with more personal problems instead of the global variation. The whole theory is threatened by films like, “Syriana”, a film that makes sure you’ve been punched in the stomach and spit on while lying on the floor recovering before exiting the cineplex. The realism of the oil industry, from the US government corruption trickling all the way down to illegal workers on the verge of becoming suicide bombers in Iran is difficult to completely grasp, even more troublesome to digest, yet still a topic that needs more awareness brought to it. What becomes easy to forget when you’re trying strongly to focus on how vast this particular reality reaches is that this is actually not reality; it is still a movie after all. It is a reality shaped by the vision of director Stephen Gaghan.

    Gaghan is the Academy Award winning screenwriter of “Traffic” and the construction of this new story comes together much the same way. There are three separate storylines that intersect each other throughout while becoming clearer as the end draws closer. As a director, this is only Gaghan’s second project and a definite step up from his previous effort, the Katie Holmes thriller, “Abandon”. He keeps the viewer engaged and affected throughout, showing as much strength and control as “Traffic” director, Steven Soderbergh. The difference between the two is Soderbergh’s ability to better balance the time spent on your toes and the time spent clutching your chest in pain. The scope of Gaghan’s script is too vast to be fully absorbed, leaving the viewer moved but not clearly understanding why. I respect Gaghan’s ability to pick up a scene at any given time without overexplaining every tangent or spending too much time contextualizing the viewer but this can leave the viewer feeling removed … not the desired effect when your hopes as a director lie in educating the viewer on this poignant topic. Thank goodness for home theatre and multiple screenings.

    What is missing is a more human element while at the same time, most of the human elements involved seem unnecessary. Again, going back to “Traffic” (as you will find yourself unable to resist comparing the two as well), the majority of the drug-related threats were personalized, tying the string between the drug lords mass-producing their product to the street kids and upper class privileged buying the junk. Here, the players’ humanity is incorporated to give them some characterization, depth. With so much happening in their professional lives, their personal lives seem superfluous and consequently lend nothing to their motivation, eventually being ignored and mostly unfinished. The most personalized focus comes from George Clooney’s portrayal of Bob Barnes, an agent with the CIA who seems just as lost and caught up in this cyclone of corruption, greed and power as we are. Clooney’s performance begins so quietly, so passively, and builds like a rumbling beneath your feet before a natural disaster strikes. Getting on in years and always well intentioned, Barnes no longer knows who controls his life, only that it is not himself. He has much to say but cowers when given the chance to say it. To a large extent, he has given up trying to make change. Clooney plays Barnes as exhausted, apathetic and frustrated without having the drive to change that. He has been telling the same lies and making the same deals for so long, he no longer questions to what goal they contribute. He has not been corrupted but he turns away his eyes to every command he executes under the moral armor that his decisions are not his own. Only they are.

    Gaghan’s camera is constantly positioned either very close or very far from the action, sometimes within the same scene. The effect is a varied degree of understanding, that we are closer to the problem than we think one minute and then detached and removed, lost the next, with numerous obstacles obstructing our view. We try to piece together the connection between the American government, the Saudi monarchy, the corporate control, the legal whitewashing and the resulting racism that instills fear and lack of understanding of everything Arab and hatred of America by the Arab people. I walked in with a vague understanding of the interconnectedness of all these issues and left “Syriana” with the concrete knowledge that it is oh so much more complicated than I originally thought.
    Last edited by mouton; 12-27-2005 at 08:16 AM.
    I have no idea what I'm doing but incompetence has never prevented me from plunging in with enthusiasm.
    - Woody Allen

  4. #19
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,495

    reply to mouton's review

    I agree with most of what you say; I just have some comments and quibbles, and I think you misstate the nature of the Bob character somewhat at one point.
    Syri-huh?
    A comment in itself and funny. The name though unexplained in the movie is apparently an actual CIA term for a certain paradigmatic type of country in the M.E.
    The scope of Gaghan’s script is too vast to be fully absorbed, leaving the viewer moved but not clearly understanding why.
    The scope isn't too vast to be absorbed, but due to insufficient control of the material in the movie, it appears to be. Again we have to make the Traffik/Traffic comparison: there’s an equally vast scope, but tighter organization, so the story can be followed.
    I respect Gaghan’s ability to pick up a scene at any given time without pandering to explanations…
    I guess you mean pander to the (least alert members of the) audience by resorting to tedious explanations. Pandering to explanations doesn't make sense, as stated.

    I agree neither the Bob character nor any of the others are what would be needed to “personalize” elements of the story and provide more “human elements," but you kind of go overboard when you say “most of the human elements involved seem unnecessary,” though.
    Clooney’s performance begins so quietly, so passively, and builds like a rumbling beneath your feet before a natural disaster strikes.
    I like that idea.
    To a large extent, he has given up trying to make change. Clooney plays Barnes as exhausted, apathetic and frustrated without having the drive to change that. He has been telling the same lies and making the same deals for so long, he no longer questions to what goal they contribute.
    Yes, Barnes is burnt out, but he isn’t apathetic; he gets into trouble for speaking up and he naively jumps at the chance to participate in an operation that will change the course of things, without knowing how Washington works. That’s his problem, as was probably true of his actual prototype, Baer, or is what Baer has observed in similar situations. You’re missing a part of Barnes’ character in your description here. Baer himself explains the Barnes character in interviews.

    [Camera.] The effect is a varied degree of understanding, that we are closer to the problem than we think one minute and then detached and removed, lost the next, with numerous obstacles obstructing our view.
    Again nice comment. I think the camera technique is probably too distracting, though I wish I’d seen the movie from farther back in the theater: I think I was too close and that caused undue distortion in my case.
    (I) left “Syriana” with the concrete knowledge that it is oh so much more complicated than I originally thought.
    True but you leave Traffik/Traffic (especially Traffik) not only knowing that but also understanding the basic dynamics of the situation pretty well, which after seeing Syriana you probably don't. Complicated doesn't have to mean confusing, it just means you have to pay close attention and use your gray cells a bit more than usual. Which as you say at the beginning this movie does, and that's good; but it could have been a more rewarding process given better writing and direction.

    I advise anybody to peruse some of the various interviews with Baer. I believe that Baer was the main source for the movie. He is very critical of the CIA and also of the government's failure to use the CIA effectively. Baer: "At the end of the day you’re a hostage of the White House." The US government's enslavement to oil interests is another separate pet topic of his and the book on that is one of the two books by Baer Gaghan used.

    As I said to begin with, Gaghan used the template of the Traffik series both for his Traffic adaptation for Soderbergh and for this movie, which he directed. Though he must have had lots of collaborative assistance from Clooney, Soderbergh, and others, maybe he was too involved pesonally at the research level this time. He went in the field, he talked to and read Baer, he absorbed the material for years -- he got in so deep he lost the artistic perspective he had in adapting Traffik into Traffic.

    It's still a really interesting, thought-provoking movie, but the more you think about it, the more you see that "a flawed movie" was a great title for this thread.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-26-2005 at 11:58 PM.

  5. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Montreal
    Posts
    261
    Hey Chris ...

    Thanks for the vocabulary advice, made some changes. Thanks also for the background info, compliments and discourse. I agree that calling the thread a "flawed movie" is apt. I enjoyed SYRIANA but ultimately thought the ties between these far reaching stories were too weak.
    I have no idea what I'm doing but incompetence has never prevented me from plunging in with enthusiasm.
    - Woody Allen

  6. #21
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,495
    Glad if I was of any help. And I think we see eye to eye on Syriana. Actually most of us here seem to. Yeah, this is a hard movie for me to rate. I'm almost tempted to make it one of the year's best ten US movies, because I like this kind of stuff so much, but I don't think it's successful enough. I'm waiting for some final 2005 late release revelations to give me ten good ones, including some serous stuff. The always provocative Armond White of The New York Press recently wrote of Munich--
    Munich is a reminder of the morality that mere politics would have us forget...
    Whaaa??? I wish movies would give us more "mere" politics and set the "morality" to one side for a bit while we figure out what is actually going on. Syriana takes that path.

Page 2 of 2 FirstFirst 12

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •