Film / Syriana

Syriana is a 2005 complex Hyperlink Story film, starring and produced by George Clooney, also starring Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright, Christopher Plummer and Mark Strong.

George Clooney plays an old, fat, burned-out CIA agent in the Middle East. His story is intertwined with that of a worker in Saudi Arabia who gets mixed up in terrorism, that of a prosperous oil consultant who has an emotional crisis and changes his life after a deadly accident, and that of the creation of an oil pipeline. They start separately, but all converge...

This film was based very loosely on a book written by a CIA agent — so loosely that it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. It was well-reviewed but only barely broke even at the box office.

Tropes in this film:

  • Adult Fear: The swimming pool with an electrical malfunction, killing one of the children of Bryan, is a source of it.
  • Arab Oil Sheikh: One of the subplots of Syriana focuses on the conflict between two sons who are the scions of a Gulf ruling family: a well-meaning Internal Reformist and his playboy younger brother.
  • Bilingual Bonus: There's a lot of dialogue in Arabic, and parts in Urdu also. None of it is subtitled.
  • Cain and Abel: The two Saudi princes, the younger of which ends up taking over with the help of an American missile strike.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Many of them.
  • Downer Ending: By the end of the film, CIA managed to put their puppet ruler on throne, securing the status quo. The Wise Prince is dead, just like his family and key supporters. The agent trying to warn him is killed in the process and openly used as a scapegoat. The big opening of the new gas port ends with terrorist attack so massive it just fades to white. The big bussiness behind all of this keeps on going untouched, sacrificing another scapegoat.
  • Disproportionate Restitution: The prince feels responsible for the death of an associate's child even though the death was clearly an accident and offers him money — around 10 million. Double subverted when the associate is at first insulted for having a price placed on his son's life, then accepts when the prince offers him a career-making deal in apology.
  • Faux Fluency: Several actors had to do this: George Clooney does not speak either Farsi or Arabic, but had to converse in both, and Alexander Siddig, whose character Prince Nasir speaks Arabic almost exclusively for the first half of the film, speaks no Arabic whatsoever—he is of Sudanese extraction but grew up in London.
  • Fingore: Mussawi tears off three of Bob's fingernails as he interrogates him.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Princes Meshal and Nasir, respectively. The first one is a spendthrift playboy focusing on having good time, the other is highly-educated economist and reasonable politician.
  • Hijacked by Jesus: Islam - The idea that man was made in God's image, as mentioned by the teenagers, is strictly Biblical. Islam is very insistent on the supremacy of God to man, to the point that even suggesting they're somehow alike is blasphemous. The video will mentions "ashes to ashes", which is barely Biblical - it's the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.
  • Honest Advisor: Prince Nasir offers Bryan Woodman's company a lucrative contract, partly out of guilt over the accidental death of Woodman's son. A still-grieving Woodman rips into him with what he really thinks of Nasir and Arabs in general, then accepts the offer. Nasir takes it right on the chin and on-the-spot hires Woodman himself as an economic advisor.
  • Hyperlink Story: Roger Ebert used this film in describing the Trope Namer.
  • Internal Reformist: Prince Nasier (the elder of the Princes) wants to be this, and he believes that his father will name him to be the next King so that he can have a chance to improve that state of his country and people. When his father bows to the wishes of the Americans and oil execs and names the younger Prince to be their puppet, Nasier tries to go outside the system.
  • Kicked Upstairs: The original plan for what to do with Bob after failing an assigment from opening sequence.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: And the original cut was to have even more.
  • Mind Screw: Though it has less to do with symbolism, odd twists and strangeness so much as having so many storylines that you'll lose track of them.
  • Motifs: Count the swimming pools in the important scenes.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: A particularly bad example. The film was marketed as though it were an almost Mad Max-esque thriller set 20 Minutes into the Future, and was full of stuff blowing up. In fact, the film was a ensemble piece on the effects of oil politics on a whole swath of people from totally divergent backgrounds.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The missile strike at the end leaves a smoking hole where there once stood a silver SUV.
  • Unflinching Walk: Bob does this while a car blows up in the background.
  • The Wise Prince: Prince Nasir is the oldest and wisest of two sons of the king of a Middle Eastern monarchy, desiring to use oil profits sold on the open market to modernize his country and diversify its economy. Contrast to his Royal Brat younger brother, who is content with keeping the status quo that favors the U.S., and is ultimately named the heir by his father.