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Working my way through some Oscar candidates of the last years, I realised that I had not felt like watching Syriana for so many months it’s a nice opportunity to wonder in principle how long that kind of "made for awards films" stay fresh. Nobody asks about the film these days, nobody wonders whether it marks a certain landmark in Clooney’s carreer, nobody even follows up on its slacking of international politics mingling with commercial interests in a way, for example, that people continuously refer to films such as "Wag the Dog" or "The Insider". I am not sure whether Syriana is worse than the mentioned as a film, or whether it’s just too bloody complicated to make you want to think about it too often. I twisted my brains a bit and think I can still feel some sore spots from trying to figure out what happened and why and how the hell did he know about this and that.

Thanks to the Gods at IMDB for their new plot synopsis feature, which saved me from dying stupid – well, die stupid I will anyway, but at least I will have the benefit of knowing about the plot to grab the world’s oil resources…(Spoilers at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0365737/synopsis). There is the story of CIA man Bob (Clooney), of broker Bryan (Matt Damon – remember "Team America"!), of the Persian prince’s ambitions to become a benevolent dictator, the teenagers who fall for the idea of becoming extremist because it’s near impossible for them to get a decent work in a hostile environment. All this links through atmosphere rather than through plot points – or at least to me, the atmosphere of some kind of melancholic bitterness prevailed. Sadness about a lost child, and about a lost marriage because the wife is unable to stay clear-minded after the loss dominates Bryan’s life. Sadness about the loss of a mission that means something to him dominates the life of Bob, and new missions get processed in a routine way, even torture happening does not really change the air of pointlessness of what he’s doing with his life. This atmosphere clearly dominates any story developments, and when the story culminates with a bang, what is left is some form of shrugging: it surely will not have changed anything, life goes on, as does politics and business.

All in all, the film is a bit too pointedly aimed at awards season, and pays for it with a subjective feeling of length and the question why they did not bring together the storylines more stringently. But maybe (probably) Rogert Ebert gets it better when he writes "the studio e-mailed critics a helpful guide to the characters. I didn’t look at it. Didn’t want to. I liked the way I experienced the film: I couldn’t explain the story, but I never felt lost in it."

Ebert: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051208/REVIEWS/51130002/1023
NYT (A.O. Scott): http://movies.nytimes.com/2005/11/23/movies/23syri.html?ex=1190260800&en=9a7b366da1603305&ei=5070 (honourable mention for the nice phrase "semiclandestine collusion")

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