Syriana (2005)


cynical look at almost all the actors dealing with the politics of oil in the Middle East


Director:  Stephen Gaghan.


CIA Characters:

Terry (James Sheridan)  -- the top CIA guy in the movie

Bob Barnes (George Clooney)  -- our anti-hero. 

Fred Franks (Thomas McCarthy)  --  CIA agent.

Stan (William Hurt) --  who gives Bob Barnes some insights into his chances. 

Mussawi (a.k.a.  Jimmy) (Mark Strong)  double agent for CIA/Iran.

Committee for the Liberation of Iran:

Dean Whiting (Christopher Plummer)  -- wealthy, influential player.

Leland Janus chairman of Connex. CEO.

Danny Dalton (Tim Blake Nelson). 


Jimmy Pope (Chris Cooper)  one of the big guys at Connex. 

Sydney Hewitt (Nicky Henson)  --  chief counsel for Connex.

Bennett Holiday (Jeffrey Wright) --  hired by Whiting to discover the facts and hide them before Justice learns what's going on.

Tommy Barton (Robert Foxworth). 


Wasim Khan (Mazhar Munir)  --  terrorist. 

Saleem Ahmed Khan (Shahid Ahmed)  -- father of the terrorist. 

Emir and Princes:

Emir Hamed Al-Subaai (Nadim Sawalha)  -- emir. 

Prince Nasir Al-Subaai (Alexander Siddig)  --  first born prince.

Prince Meshal Al-Subaai (Akbar Kurtha)  --  second born prince. 


Bryan Woodman (energy analyst)   --  works with Prince Nasir; gives him advice as his economic adviser

Julie Woodman (Amanda Peet)  --  wife of Bryan Woodman. 


Ostensibly the movie is about finding out how a small oil company, Kileen,  managed to get the oil rights to Kazakhstan.  The Justice Department thinks that pay-offs were involved.  A larger oil company, Connex, wants to take-over Kileen Oil, but the Justice Department will block the move until they get to the bottom of the matter. 

Some of the reviews I read said the movie was a-political. Nothing could be farther from the truth.  The movie is a cynical look at almost all the actors in the politics of oil in the Middle East.  Let's just analyze the behavior of the main actors: 

The Committee to Liberate Iran (CLI)   --  a bunch of wealthy businessmen form an association to corner the market on more oil, making them all richer, and use the cover of liberating Iran to throw off suspicions. 

The President  --  by inference, the CLI has the blessing of the president who has over-blown notions of transforming anti-western dictatorships into pro-western, pro-business governments.  (The President is not necessarily in on the money-making deals.)

The CIA  --  the CIA is up to its old dirty tricks.  It is in the business of assassination of trouble-makers and princes that are not pro-American or are too far to the political left.  The main character in the movie, Bob Barnes, is a CIA man.  His hands are certainly not clean either, as he is involved in the assassinations.

The Emir and His Princes  --   the Emir chooses to reject the first born son, Prince Nazir (who is a man with a true interest in helping his people) for the second born Prince, who is primarily out for himself.

The US Justice Department  --  the CLI manipulates the Department of Justice by throwing them only two of the bad guys (two minor underlings compared to the wealthy men at the top).  The Justice Department is so constrained that it has to accept these two sacrificial lambs because they know they will not be able to do better. 

Terrorism  --  frankly, the other actors in the movie are all so corrupted that the real hero is the young terrorist.  How else could any real justice ever be achieved in an American system that is so corrupted as that portrayed in the movie? 

About the only purely good guy in the movie is the energy analyst who chose to work for Prince Nasir. 


The family was very critical of the movie, primarily because it was just too hard to follow.  There are so many characters that it is easy to get lost. I had to slowly go through the movie and track the names of the characters and carefully follow what was said to figure it all out.   But, hopefully, with the above information, the watcher of this movie won't be as lost as we were.   

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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