Sunday, January 01, 2006

Sympathy For The Damon.

Syriana
2005, USA
Stephen Gaghan
35mm

The Middle East has been quite the hot topic for debate in the past few years, what with St. George crusading against an imaginary dragon like Don Quixote with a $200 billion dollar Congressional subsidy, and it’s in the space between the two sides of the issue that Syriana makes its stand. Labeled as a liberal film that takes an anti-American stance, the film actually has much more to say about the crisis, laying blame everywhere and nowhere. It’s a thinking man’s movie about the issue, which is a shame because thinking men don’t go to the movies. They read books that don’t simplify complex geo-political issues to the point where they can star Matt Damon.

Damon's next project is a sitcom based on A Brief History of Time.

Syriana is about the US, the Middle East, and oil, and it’s a tragedy. It’s a tragedy because it shows how intricately everything is interconnected, and how incredible horrors can be perpetuated by many people breaking the rules just a little bit, getting greedy just a little bit, destroying the world just a little bit at a time. There’s no arch-fiend pulling the strings behind the scenes, cackling wildly while he offers up dead babies and oil money to a fiery brass furnace in the name of Ba’al, despite what Arabic cartoons and university students in those George Bush/Hitler mustache T-shirts would have you believe. It’s just a bunch of people in various strata of the power scale, working for themselves instead of the greater good, who eventually communally throw a spanner in the works of the global village, or a plane in the heart of the financial sector.

Much has been made of the film being overcomplicated, but it isn’t, unless you’re in a frat. What must be realized, however, is that the film isn’t about a story, it’s about a situation, so things don’t move quite as linearly as those weaned on Hardy Boys mysteries and Pink Panther films might expect. Not everything wraps up into a nice little package, so be prepared for that going in to the film. Syriana has also been criticized for showing sympathy for suicide bombers, and therein lies the crux of my main complaint about the film. It’s not that writer/director Stephen Gaghan makes the bombers seem sympathetic, it’s just that he makes them seem simple. They lose their jobs in an oil field, so they blow up a tanker. I’m no expert in the Middle East, but I have lost a job before, and I’m fairly sure there must be more to it than that. It’s this over-simplification that’s insulting, almost to the point of treating the plight of the victims on both sides seem flippantly. I would imagine that a great deal of the hostility that many Islamic terrorists feel towards the United States stems not from unemployment, but by, say illegal occupation of their lands. I assume this because I am a victim of one of the silent occupations that the United States is perpetrating on a smaller scale than Iraq all over the world. Possibly due to a softwood lumber dispute, mad-cow hysteria, or a lower drinking age, my country is invaded by guerrilla units of the American army every long weekend or alcohol-based holiday. It being New Year’s Day, we’re in the midst of fending off a particularly brutal invasion, one that has left its mark in the city with urine stained taxi-cabs and hotel hallways that smell like thrown-up French fries. Like the regular army, these elite units are comprised of retarded 18-20 year old males, dressed in their camouflage uniforms of white sneakers, baggy dark sweatpants, and stupid hats. I suppose that’s meant to blend in with the locals, but we all dress for the weather up here, not like we just woke up on a couch after a slumber party in the ghetto. They communicate via mono-syllabic grunts and the word “yo”, despite being uniformly white, and travel in packs of about 5, with at least one guy with a fresh black eye trying to explain to his friends that he managed to beat up at least 10 Canadian “pussies” before one of them landed a lucky punch. Though many of them believe they are needed up here to liberate Canadian women from their thong underwear and spread thick gooey freedom all over their oppressed faces, that’s not always the case. There’s actually a great deal of animosity between the Americans and regular people, probably due to differing political views and Canadian arrogance regarding graduating from actual high schools instead of glorified day-care centres infested with crack and rap.

Operation Vaginal Freedom.

See that? That’s the kind of understandable but clearly disproportionate hostility that Syriana needed to tap into, instead of treating its subjects with kid gloves. While the film did endeavor to show the multiple facets of the conflict, there was a certain passion missing, a certain commitment to laying the groundwork without going anywhere with it. The film lays out the simplified facts and then walks away, leaving behind a distinct feeling of nihilism and pessimism. But I suppose they do have a point. If the problem can’t be solved in two hours of Matt Damon, then I guess it’s not worth solving at all.

4 Comments:

Blogger Sam Kahn said...

Well put.

1:13 AM  
Blogger MM said...

Hilarious but sadly true.

2:57 AM  
Blogger jim pinto said...

Um.

Maybe your best review yet.

Um.

I want to say more, but I don't want to overshadow the critiques made previously.

1:20 AM  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

Thanks, Jim. If it's my best one, then it's a shame nobody read it. Damn holidays. And declining readership.

8:56 AM  

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