So dense and complex is this story about the high price of oil, and so varied and vast are its characters and settings, that one can't make much sense of it during the first viewing. My notepad is filled not with the usual scribblings about memorable scenes and remarkable performances, but with notes about the dark doings of Syriana's endless buffet of protagonists: the weary, disillusioned C.I.A. agent betrayed by his bosses for seemingly capricious reasons (played by George Clooney); the slick energy analyst (Matt Damon) who parlays the death of his son into a gig working for a Middle Eastern prince (Alexander Siddig); the Washington attorney (Jeffrey Wright) who will screw whomever necessary to clear the way for a merger between two petrochemical corporations; and the various other government spooks and Middle Eastern emirs and Texas oilmen who flesh out this meaty tale. Only later does one stop to consider the flinty camerawork, the impatient editing, the tense score -- the things that make Syriana a brilliant movie, not merely a treatise on global politics.
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Writer: Stephen Gaghan and Robert Baer
Producer: George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh and Michael Nozik
Cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Peet, Tim Blake Nelson, Chris Cooper, William Hurt, Amr Waked, Max Minghella and Greta Scacchi