Sunday, December 11, 2005


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enlarge"Corruption is why we win." To most Americans, those are harsh words. To the conspiracy theorists, those words are canonized. To Syriana, those are the words that drives every action by every character.

Directed by Stephan Gaghan ("Traffic"), Syriana is a political thriller, one that will have oil companies crying foul and liberals pointing their fingers at corrupt corporations. As for myself, a moderate in terms of politics, it gave me a scary picture of the world, a world that is ruled by corrupt people, interested in themselves and their profits, and not for the good of mankind.

Syriana is several stories intertwined into one social commentary, not just about corrupt oil companies, but more specifically, about the corruption of man. "If man is created in God's image...then God is pretty messed up." These words are uttered by a Muslim man, a Muslim man who would eventually give his life in a terrorist act against an oil company. But more importantly, these are the words that drive the narrative of Syrianna, a picture of corrupt human beings, messed up, causing them to ruin the world the live in.

For the average moviegoer, Syriana is simply too confusing. I consider myself fairly astute in terms of understanding the world, but as careful as I watched the movie, much of it was confusing Perhaps Syrianna assumes too much of its viewers.

However, that is the only real weakness the film has. Besides the compelling story, the acting is phenomenal. Clooney, Damon, and Alexander Siddiq (Kingdom of Heaven) give noteworthy performances. But the real strength of the movie is its commentary, its picture of humanity, one that is bleak.

SYRIANA Some people will be upset or frustrated with the ending of the movie, because it does not seem to bring closure, but in my mind, the ending fit perfectly with what Syriana is trying to say. Throughout the movie Bennett Holiday's (Jeffrey Wright) father is sitting on the steps of his house, obviously drunk, and obviously on the outs with Holiday. This interaction is a microcosm of the film, as one man deals with the 'messiness' of man's image. Holiday's father is a bum, and he is proof that maybe in fact God is messed up for creating such a messed up man.

Syriana continues this commentary, showing the corruption of man through corrupt corporations, corrupt politicians, corrupt lawyers, Islamic terrorists, and a government that sells out its own for it's mistakes. But, like I said, the end of the movie gives us our response. The end of the movie is Holiday, for the first time, showing love for his father, telling him to come in, and actually opening the door and closing it behind him, a sign of real love, love that has been absent up until then.

Just before that scene, you have George Clooney's character trying to save a man's life, a man he had previously contracted by the CIA to kill. Yet Clooney risks his life to try and attempt to save the other man's life.

Matt Damon's character, who had left his wife to pursue success, comes home to his wife and son, to rebuild the life that he once had. This is where, to me, Syriana is a great, not just a good movie. It shows the corruption of man, but it gives an answer to such dirt. Love. Peace. Restoration. Selflessness.

Man may be messed up, but that is not the part created in God's image. God is love (John 3:16). God is peace. God has restored us (2 Cor. 5:21). God showed us selflessness in the cross. I understand many conservatives will be put off by the very anti-corporation and anti-political message of Syriana. My prayer is that you will not stop there. Rather, I pray you will see man's corruption, and strive to live the kind of life that is made in God's image.

Reviews and Blogs


Chris Utley said...


Tim, you say that "Matt Damon's character, who had left his wife to pursue success, comes home to his wife and son, to rebuild the life that he once had. This is where, to me, Syriana is a great, not just a good movie. It shows the corruption of man, but it gives an answer to such dirt. Love. Peace. Restoration. Selflessness."

Pardon me, but in Matt Damon's storyline in the film, I saw something else. Vengeance. Retaliation. Payback. His actions were just as corrupt as everyone else's. Yeah, those actions stemmed from a horrible tragedy, but they were corrupt nevertheless.

11:29 AM  
Tim Spanburg said...

Chris -

Good point. Due to the fact I was trying to keep my review somewhat shorter, I left out the corruption of Matt Damon's character, which is as horrible as anyone else's.

However, I do see good in Matt Damon's return home. Although the movie offers no dialogue to say whether this is correct or not, there is a feeling that Damon realizes the fruitlessness of his previous corruption. That his corruption led to the destruction of his family, and now he wants the opposite.

The reason I see this is also due to the very end of the movie. Jeffrey Wright's character offers some little hope of restoration with his father, who had mostly been drunk through the movie. That is where I see the hope in this film. For 2 hours you see ONLY corruption, and the end we see the better side, the hope of restoration.

Good points, though. Damon's character was anything but a picture of love.

1:05 PM  
Adam said...

Hey man we are neighbors, I am in Bedford I want to check out what your doing up there

Adam Hughes

5:48 AM  
mike said...

This film was nothing more then another indictment from George Looney, Matt Shameon and his friends against the Bush presidency. To glamorize a suicide terrorist bombing as something pure and noble the way it was depicted in this film is sickening. There has been corruption in our world since day one. I’ve never heard of a government/big business hit on a world figure and to insinuate such an event taking place during a very heated Muslim Fascist time is very sad of these money hungry Hollywood leftists.
This movie is as corrupted as the message they portayed.

9:19 AM  
mike said...

This film was nothing more then another indictment from George Looney, Matt Shameon and his friends against the Bush presidency. To glamorize a suicide terrorist bombing as something pure and noble the way it was depicted in this film is sickening. There has been corruption in our world since day one. I’ve never heard of a government/big business hit on a world figure and to insinuate such an event taking place during a very heated Muslim Fascist time is very sad of these money hungry Hollywood leftists.
This movie is as corrupted as the message they portayed.

9:19 AM  
Tim Spanburg said...

mike -

i would disagree that they were trying to glamorize the terrorist attack against the oil company. however, i do feel that the movie was trying to get behind the reasoning as to why terrorists do what they do. in contrast to our current president's thinking, the terrorists don't 'hate our freedom,' as Bush has constantly summarized. the terrorists, however immorral and horrible their reactions are, have legitimate concerns (the right for Palestine to have land).

thus, we need an informed response to such acts. we can't simply go kill everyone that might be a terrorist, but try to get at the root level of this terrorism, much of which has to do with our unbridled support of Israel.

syrianna is a good movie, because it deals with social issues that are important. i hope that you might go see it again, and try to get beyond your conservative viewpoint and see the good in syrianna. i agree that many would feel syrianna is coming from a liberal perspective, and i expected convservatives to be disappointed (see beginning of my review). however, this does not change the fact that syrianna is a very good movie, and asks the right questions. does it have the right answers? that is up for debate.

7:30 PM  
mike said...


Perhaps “glamorize” isn't the right word however, you must admit they portrayed the Arab man’s suicide act as a honorable patriotic duty. So anyway you slice it, the movie depicts murdering innocent people to drive their message of hate. I think you are wrong, the main stream Arabs leaders can make a difference but they don’t want a free society, and why that would take their power away. Just ask the women who walk 10 steps behind men, wear a scarf to hide their faces, and live in a society where children aren’t educated except to hate Israel and America. It’s a place where heads are cut off with out pause and the sanctity of life means nothing to these barbarians. This describes a society with out freedom, how could you view it any other way. Could you imagine if we started operating like that in this country, uncontested suppression and torture?

Israel is...IS, the only living breathing free democracy in the middle east who share the same values that we do as a county. Perhaps because of our sacrifice, the USA that is, Iraq may become the next free democracy in the middle east...God willing, even know we can’t use the word God.

You’re right, there is no Palestine...if they truly wanted land to live in and call Palestine , why don't their Arab neighbors donate a 100 square miles and be done with it, there is plenty of open land? Let me answer, they love to kill Israeli's by suicide bombers, more then they love their own children. This is a sick people who are lost in their own hatred for life. The biggest root of the problem that isn't exposed in this movie Iran, being mother of all evil who exports terrorist, terrorist tactics and who preaches hate through out the entire Muslim world and attempts to attach holiness to it. That my friend is B.S.

So when Syriana serves one side of the equation swayed towards the BLAME AMERICA CROWD, to me it is a typical Hollywood hate fest. Don't spend your money on it, join the Taliban and keep on truck'n, hopefully you’ll meet Osama Bin Laden and have a nice conversation with him and solve the middle east disputes! I’ll bet you that Matt and George won’t be going there anytime soon.

Sorry Tim, but Syriana is a news story and one side reporting still sucks to me! It was a Michael Moore, CNN, Barbra Streisand, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Bill Clinton production (incognito of course).


Mike the conservative movie critic

2:42 PM  
MotoRama said...

I just watched the movie yesterday and somehow i was hugely put off by the suggestion that the muslim world was trying to be righteous and it is American business interests who are not letting it happen.I am not an American but having lived here for almost a decade and no matter how much i dont like the viewpoint of conservatives, the movie lost its credibility with its one sided outlook. Excellent screenplay with verity style movie making but i wish they could have had enough characters to give it a balanced outlook.

Just my 2cents!

8:07 PM  
Tim Spanburg said...

motorama -

thanks for the words. i think you summed up my thinking on syrianna as well, although i would give it a little more credit. it was one sided, but it had a powerful message to tell. every human is corrupt. big business, government that is willing to be paid for their support, and the most obvious selection being terrorism. i wish syrianna could have been more fair, it would have made it a better movie.

10:25 PM  
Tim Spanburg said...

mike -

just curious, but i know of another mike the conservative movie critic, Michael Medved, just curious if you were him. If so, I have to say I've always enjoyed hearing your reviews and appreciate the work you do greatly (even though I may sound like a hard liberal, I'm really not, I promise.)

Anyway, a response to some of your latest discussion.

First, it did disturb me the way they portrayed the terrorist act. Something tells me had they shot that scene of terrorists flying a plane into a building, George Clooney would have been ushered out of America personally, if he wasn't shot first.

Second, I think its interesting that you bring up the issue of torture, something I am vehemently against, but something our current president seems to have little issue with. Granted, I would never say Bush would go to the lengths of an Iran, but part of what makes the US so special is that we don't sink to their levels. We don't need to torture people, because we are more resourceful than that.

Third, I would hardly use Israel as a picture of a great democracy America should be proud of. After all, they are guilty of bombings (the latest use of sonic booms another example) and also the communities were Jews basically kick Palestinians out of their homes and land, and then resettle the area as a Jewish establishment. That must stop.

Fourth, I think it is important to highlight the price Iraq has paid. I am personally disappointed in the conservative side of the potlicial spectrum that is so hard on Iraqis, thinking they should pick up the fight so we can leave. Iraq did not ask for this fight, and we cannot lay it in their lap now. Plus, Iraq has had an enormous sacrifice as well. Bush estimates 30,000 citizens have died, thats 10 9/11's. That is a sacrifice.

Fifth, Israel is holy land. Palestinians should be given a piece of that. They don't just want any land. Granted, I think they do need to come to some sort of middle ground, and they have refused.

Sixth, I think there is one question that America is trying to answer. How do we respond to terrorism? Bush has given an answer most Americans reject (the Iraq war). The Democrats, well, let's just say we're still waiting for John Kerry to develop a plan. We need more dialogue on this. We cannot invade every country that could be a threat. iran, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, the list goes on. We have to find a way to peace, and as a Christian, I have a real belief that can happen.

I appreciate the word Mike, you make me think and I welcome your comments anytime.


10:35 PM  
mike said...

Thank you for your response. I will try and address my point of view based upon your retort.

There is no difference between the trade towers or an ocean tanker, it’s innocent death that in this movie was made to look holy and an acceptable method of retaliation.

2. George Bush has never once said to inhumanely torture any prisoner that is being held captive...not once and I challenge you to produce the transcript where he says that. There are basic methods that have always been conducted over the past 50-75 years through out wartime. Sleep deprivation, loud music, drug induced truth products etc. Here’s my personal opinion. If one of my family members were threaten by a potential terrorist act, and I could prevent it because I had in my possession one of the terrorist who were about to commit the act, there is nothing I wouldn’t consider to stop them (do you have little kids). Your a god loving man, and the Lord said many times; better one man die then a nation. I have zero tolerance for Islamic radical terrorist and believe the gloves need to come off when dealing with them. This is my opinion.

3. Israel is guilty of self preservation. They have never ever strapped a bomb to one of their children to commit the barbaric atrocities as the PLO and other terrorist group have stooped too. As I said before, when you hate more then you love your own children, you are a lost people. Israel does not hide behind a Jihad or any other cloak. They handle their issues in broad daylight through their law enforcement or military.

4. Thousands of innocent people have had their blood spilled because of Saddam’s regime. The wives of Iraqi men were viciously raped and murdered before their entire families eyes. The Kurds (1000’s) men, women, and children were gassed in the street by his hand. The list goes on and on. Do you really believe the Iraqi’s want to live under those conditions...Please! It will take years to establish their democracy, just as it did in this country. We had a revolution, we had civil war, and we had world wars and are still a very young country. 200 years is not a very long time considering how long the world has had men inhabiting the planet, I can promise we spilt much more American blood then what’s been split in Iraq. Most likely, more blood will be spilt for the cost of freedom, its a harsh reality but the price you pay. You are looking for an over night success and that’s just not going to happen. The USA under the command of President Bush will stay until the job is completed. Does that mean we need 150k troops...probably not. We are still in Europe, Korea, Japan and those wars have been over for 50+ years Tim.

5. Holy holy is terrorism. Please read 3 one more time. It takes two to tango, and I believe that Israel has been much more flexible then Yassar Arafat ever dreamed of being. He is a terrorist from the get go. Is Israel perfect, of course not, but what country is including ours...however I believe the original constitution is one of the most perfect documents ever created by man through Gods divine intervention (which by the way is constantly threaten by the ACLU and liberal democrats). Israel just gave up all of the settlements in the north to Palestine. Would you prefer that Israel would be pushed into the sea and drowned like the new leader of Iran has said many times?

6. How many times should we repeat the words of John Kerry and his party? They had the exact same intelligence that Clinton and Bush had. Clinton, both Hillary and Bill have stood up demanded that Saddam is remove as he is a clear and present danger to his neighbors (just ask Kuwait) and the rest of the civilized world. Did we find WDM’, did he have them yes. Did he posture himself to the world that he was in development and pursuit of Nuclear arms? The answer is yes. If you want to play the part you must anticipate a response. It’s cause and effect, simple as that. If you had a chance to stop Hitler you would have of course you would have?

Libya wisely gave up their nuke program, Mushariff is as good as friend in Pakistan as you can possibly get, Korea, was allowed to develop nukes because of the terrible job Clinton and Albright did in the 90s to prevent them. Should we take Iran out...absolutely. If Iran gets a nuclear bomb, you can bet your last dollar that Osama Bin Laden will launch an attack on NYC.

I don’t want this world for my children and its unfortunate that we are in this place. But remember my friend, if you add up what the USA has willingly given to the world in form of aid, charity and military support, any other nation pales in comparison. Thus when I see a picture like Syraina attempting discredit our country, our industry and our President, I get awful angry.


11:02 AM  
Tim Spanburg said...

Mike -

Thanks again for the response, I appreciate the dialogue greatly.

1. Torture: Bush has never directly supporter torture. But Mike, that is the beauty of politics, not Bush standing against torture. First, his pick for attorney general was involved in a memo supporting torture. Second, Rumsfeld had something to do with abu ghraib, more evidence of inhumane treatment.

2. Seeing that my expertise is not in politics, I will admit that weakness, hoping you will accept the fact that I do know the Bible very well and must disagree with your argument that the Lord said 'many times' that it is better for one man to die than for many. The main instant of that phrase is when a Jewish High Priest uses it of Jesus, believing it better for Jesus to die than for many Jews. The problem is with your analogy is that 1) Jesus chose to die as a sacrifice and 2) that does not justify such logic. Alsthough it may in fact be better for one man to die than many, that it is not a Biblical point of view.

3. I have not once tried to lessen the seriousness of dealing with terrorists. The problem is, when you have the response Bush has had, then another Biblical proverb comes into play. "Those who live by the sword will die by the sword." Those words were spoken by Jesus to Peter when Peter cut off the guard's ear. This proverb is a reminder that those who are quick to kill will be meet death themselves. That is why I think we need a more intelligent discussion on this matter. We have the Republican viewpoint, which is preemptive war, something that is very dangerous. Or we have the Democratic and U.N. perspective, which is do nothing. Mike, this discussion must happen.

4. Israel does handle issues out in the open, and I would never say they are like terrorists. The problem is, they still have committed atrocities, and Palestinians are justified in anger at such actions. Granted, terrorism is NEVER justified, but their anger at Israel is.

5. I am very tired of Republicans claiming Saddam's atrocities as a good reason why took him out of power. That was NOT the argument for going into war. How about the atrocities in the Sudan against the Christians? Darfur? Rwanda? Last time I checked the Republicans cared little about these issues, so don't use Saddam's atrocities as a reason for going to war, there are far worse people in power than him, however horrible he might have been.

6. It is up to Iraqi's how they want to live, not us. And apparently, they aren't the biggest fans of the U.S., because Rumsfeld was clearly wrong about the U.S. being met as liberators. Instead, we have a country that is not much better off than when Saddam was there.

7. As a Christian, I am also very frustrated that God has been tied in with the founding of our country and the Constitution. As much as I love being in the U.S., and having this freedom, this is a country still founded from having kliled off almost the entire Native American population, as well as enslaving African Americans, cultural damage that is shown today by the number of Alcoholic Native Americans, as well as the number of African Americans still in poverty. Something tells me God is not wanting to be tied in with such actions.

8. As for Iraq, I am probably more frustrated with the Democrats position than even the Republicans. After all, tehy were for Iraq when the people were for Iraq, and not that many people are against Iraq, they are against Iraq. That is pretty sad, and I recognize that.

9. Last, WMD's. If we haven't found them, then where are they? In today's day, it is really hard not to find huge stockpiles of weapons. It is nice to see Bush finally owning up to this somewhat, Mike, please do the same.

I'll breakdown my whole opinion on this matter as a Christian man. As a Christian, I live with the promise of who Christ is, that he has redeemed me, and that I fear nothing now. Read through Isaiah sometime Mike, and see all the promises of peace and safety to those who are in the arms of God.

Peace and safety will never come from preemptive wars, finding WMD's, torturing people, or killing terrorists. Peace and safety comes only with a suitable redeemer, and there is only one, Jesus.

But what about terrorism? Look at the early church. They were killed, tortured, persecuted all for just being Christians. But through this, they had their peace and safety, knowing that they rested in the promise of Jesus Christ, that he was their redeemer and they were saved. Because of this, they never took up arms against Rome, took their deaths, and through love, conquered. I know its hippie-sounding, but Mike, it beats all the dead troops, Iraqis, and scared Americans that we have now. I hope that sums up where I am at. Have a good one..


1:15 PM  
cpmichae said...

"Because of this, they never took up arms against Rome, took their deaths, and through love, conquered. I know its hippie-sounding" My question to you Tim is what is wrong with sounding like a Hippie???

7:27 AM  
Anonymous said...

If syriana has affected any community as much as ..... and relieved weight of the shoulders of ......

We know what this all about every one knows at the back of their minds, weak people who have nothing can only show (display not behind the curtains) their anger, like a begs for money publically, and others ask for money in a room with one person init.

Terrorism is the only sort of military ....... have, away of fighting back the INVADERS. So i get one more jewish person, telling me about how muslims resort to suicide bombers. Imagine Israel with no military or support (from american-jewish CEO, members of congress, actors, directors) what on earth would they do. Imaging if a HALOACOST BOY FOUND A BOMB IN A CAMP, WOULD HE NOT STRAP IT ON AND BLOW UP THE GAS CHAMBERS TO STOP MORE JEWS DYING.

These jews are purposly being narrow minded for the sake of we dont care and you cant make us care

3:18 PM  
Anonymous said...

well one side or not
you cannot show both sides when majority of the people/institutions responsible to be impartial reporters are involved in either showing the side that big business/money and corrupt politicians wants to put forth or just totally ignore the side of people actually affected by the decisions of the corrupt high preists, politicians and big business.

For those ranting about democracy well ....wake up... all this so called democracy in reality is Govt for the corporation of the corporations and by the corporations......specially when votes of the people dont count and the government is elected by proxy...

As for the movie it was absolutely realistic in that it didnt use galmorized version of violence and propoganda or contra propaganda...the backdrop the color the storyline everything made it visually just perfect.....comparison to michael moore is totally silly....this movie carries very well....

atleast clooney has got what it takes to say what its for the rest of the people who choose to live in DENIAL....what can i say

another human

8:24 AM  
Anonymous said...

You say that viewers might find this film 'confusing' but surely that is because the film is not for a passive audience. Like any challenging book, one might have to re-read the book in order to fully understand the point(s) made. I know reading Charles Dicken's 'Great Expectation's'that after three reads, I understood that the theme of the book was not love but how money can corrupt and does corrupt.

This film was confusing and not straight forward but I know I'll have to view it several times before I can pick up the subtle points that it makes. I love any film or book where I am challenged, and this film does that. It is not everyday that Hollywood produces something this, and when does, I say Thank God.

12:02 PM  
Tim Spanburg said...

Great points. When art leaves you thinking and forces you to reexamine what you just saw that is a good thing. I have not seen Syrianna again, but am planning on it. So when I see it again I definitely will be looking for more than I saw the first time.

Especially great point about Dickens. I am reading Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment for the second time, and I am picking up so much that I missed already.

Thanks for the great comment.

12:30 PM  
DoctorDon said...

I didn't think the movie glorified the deaths of the suicide bombers at all. I think it was portraying their act as a tragic waste of life. Both of their victims (who were most likely largely poor workers like themselves) and of their own lives, which could have been so much more. The movie showed how their despair and helplessness (and hopelessness) was twisted by charismatic leaders into a willingness to die to strike out. At the same time, you have those who are in power willing to strike out to preserve their power. By having the suicide bombers' weapon come from the CIA's deals, the film points out how all violence is connected in grief and waste, whether it be violence through greed or violence through despair. I don't think the film glorified *anyone's* behavior.

8:11 PM  
Tim Spanburg said...

DoctorDon -

Great point. I want to watch the movie again now just to see what you're talking about.

I think the scene with the bombers was so eerie that a lot of people assumed it was glorifying what they were doing. But at the same time, the movie was highlighting the depravity of everything, with no one really standing out as a whole lot different. In other words, good thoughts DoctorDon.

6:37 AM  
Anonymous said...

If there was no war - some of the biggest corporations(companies) in the world would have to close down or start some other kind of business - sure there is good and evil - and then THERE IS PROFIT - common man doesnt have the money to buy millions of dollar worth of war equipment - but most governments do specially when politicians & other barons get a percentage - non existent threats are created out of thin air - money is unavailable for benefit of common - and this also includes the very soldiers who fight these wars - the POLITICIANS the CEO'S AND THEIR KIDS never have to show up in the killing zone - only ordinary young men and women usually middle class or lower middle class with a sense of pride for their countries that is exploited - sure one can say they volunteer but not for the uncontrollable greed of powers that be who want to make more money than they would ever use in their lifetime - then again arent we all greedy and selfish one way or another - SYRIANNA WAS A COOL MOVIE - perhaps the only movie to come out in these times that told a story of the truth as it is happening or has happened so many times - WAKE UP PEOPLE - EVEN WHEN THE GREAT EAST INDIA COMPANY & BRITAIN WAS OUT CONTROLLING MOST OF THE WORLD - THE COMMON MAN/WOMAN IN ENGLAND WAS LIVING A POOR MEAGRE EXISTENCE - AND THE ROYALTY WAS HAVING FUN - ITS STILL THE SAME TODAY EVERY NATION HAS ITS SHARE OF ROYALTY AND ITS SHARE OF THE SHEEP FOR SLAUGHTER - THATS EXACTLY WHAT SYRIANNA POTRAYED WHETHER IT WAS PEOPLE HERE OR IN THE MIDDLE EAST - FINALLY HERES SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT - LETS SAY THERE WAS A TRULY GOOD PERSON AT THE TOP WHO WANTED TO DO GOOD FOR THE PEOPLE - THIS PERSON WOULDNT EVEN MAKE IT THROUGH THE FIRST TERM PERHAPS NOT EVEN THE FIRST YEAR - SO ALL OF THIS IS ONLY CATERED TOWARDS MAKING MORE PROFIT FOR PEOPLE WHO ALREADY HAVE A LOT OF WEALTH - God Bless all - Hope that someday the people who can make a change will realize this and do something positive - another selfish B******

2:01 AM  

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