We watched Syriana the other night . . . and switched it off after about an hour and a quarter. Any film that cannot make itself understood in 1.25 hours deserves to be switched off. My theory is that they were going for a John LeCarre story, except they neglected to hire John LeCarre. His “Spy Who Came in from the Cold”, for example, is richly complex, but also comprehensible to anyone paying attention. In Syriana they introduce a dozen or so characters each with a separate story line, and then neglected to even begin stitching them together in that first 1.25 hours. And to even begin to understand it, you must memorize the names of the various parts, because they are always dropping names.
Yeah, we got that the film was about corrupt oil company executives and staff (duh), corrupt CIA leadership and staff (double duh) and corrupt and violent Arabs (wow . . . really??) So, they could have told that tale in about 30 minutes—a nice half hour drama, complete with commercials. The film had a large, capable cast, led by lover boy George Clooney, who looked a bit careworn for this particular part. So, the acting was fine generally. It was just the incomprehensible writing and the story line that left so much to be desired.
Now, we generally check the reviews of films we rent on Netflix and this one got passable reviews. The odd one mentioned the complexity of the plot and the (too) many characters. But maybe today’s film-goers demand more action, or the promise thereof, and less of the thinking stuff. Too bad really, but perhaps we didn’t really need another story about murder and other fun stuff in the Middle East. Or perhaps there is no actual intellectual content to anything going on in the Middle East.
Oh, and the other thing—pictures of Beirut proved depressing. We stopped in Beirut during the 1960s and loved the place. In this film it looked like the slums of any run-down city, with the addition of murderous thugs roaming around the place. Too bad. But our Arab friends continue to corrupt their own culture, and, as noted in the film, will some day run out of oil and, therefore, a future. Too bad.
And on another of our exoplanets, the newspapers are full of stories about how Yasser Arafat was probably murdered, although no one seems sure of how – polonium, maybe?? And, of course, Israel is to blame—who else would do such a thing?? Heaven knows, nobody else in the Middle East would even think of killing another Arab. Would they??