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Review Written by: Will Penley
Film: A+
Video/Audio/Extras: A/B/C

Directed by: Stephen Gaghan
Written by: Stephen Gaghan
Based on the book by: Robert Baer
Produced by: Jennifer Fox, Georgia Kacandes and Michael Nozik
Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright, Alexander Siddig, Christopher Plummer, Chris Cooper
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it!

"Corruption...is why we win."

Oil is the greatest natural resource in history. Without it, we couldn't drive our cars or do a number of other things. Stephen Gaghan's masterful political thriller Syriana provides us with an in-depth and sometimes disturbing look at the intricacies of the oil industry and how it affects our everyday lives. I've never seen any film quite like this one. It's extremely complex and sometimes even hard to follow, but that's okay. In fact, that's actually a good thing. Roger Ebert put it perfectly when he said that since none of the characters in the film understand the whole picture, neither should we.

I'll try to explain the plot as clearly as possible. Two oil companies, energy giant Connex and obscure Killen, have recently made a shadowy merger for mutual benefit. In effect, the Department of Justice becomes suspicious about the entire deal and hires a Washington law firm to investigate. Enter Bennett Holiday (Jeffrey Wright), a quiet and reserved young attorney whose job is to find any reason for breaking the merger and report it to the firm. In another part of the world, veteran CIA operative Robert Baer (George Clooney) has successfully assassinated two arms dealers in Iran, but becomes worried because one of the missiles that was to be destroyed in the assassination has disappeared.

The higher-ups begin to panic and immediately propose that he be set up with a desk job. However, in an odd turn of events, he is quickly sent back out into the field in order to find and kill Prince Nasir (Alexander Siddig), who had a large part in the oil merger. Also involved is energy analyst Bryan Woodman (Matt Damon), who has just been invited to become Nasir's economic advisor after a freak accident resulting in the death of Woodman's soon. A fourth storyline involves Pakistani migrant worker Wasim (Mazhar Munir) who, after being laid off from his job at an oil refinery, becomes involved with a "school" that prepares young men for suicide missions.

Syriana is truly amazing. It's a very intense film, and we're kept on the edge of our seats the entire way through. George Clooney is fantastic as Robert Baer and his Oscar was 100% deserved. Alexander Siddig also excels as the sympathetic Prince Nasir. The screenplay is also great and I applaud Gaghan for actually being able to keep track of everything during the writing process. As I said before, this is one of the best films of 2005 and it was very much snubbed for a Best Picture nomination. I highly recommend this one to anybody looking for a smart and interesting thriller.

Warner hasn't done the best job on this disc, but there is one area where it really excels. The video on this disc is extremely clear and free of scratches or grain. This is one of the best transfers I've seen in recent months. The audio, however, is not all that great and definitely requires subtitles. I wasn't able to hear this film at all when I saw it in theaters, so it was a great pleasure to be able to turn it up as loud as I needed for home viewing.

As for the extras, they are sadly rather sparse. There are a few interesting deleted scenes that are good for seeing once, but it's nothing spectacular. There's an interesting interview with George Clooney featuring his thoughts on the film, along with an economically-aware documentary called "Make a Change, Make a Difference." Rounding out the disc is the film's theatrical trailer. Although there aren't many extras, I have to recommend that you buy Syriana, one of the most amazing films of recent years. You will definitely not regret it.

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