U.S. energy giant Connex is losing control of key Middle East oil fields in a kingdom ruled by the al-Subaai family. The emirate's foreign minister, Prince Nasir has granted natural gas drilling rights to a Chinese company, greatly upsetting the U.S. oil industry and government. To compensate for its decreased Show more... production capacity, Connex initiates a shady merger with Killen, a smaller oil company that recently won the drilling rights to key petroleum fields in Kazakhstan. Antitrust regulators at the U.S. Justice Department have misgivings. A Washington, D.C.-based law firm is hired to smooth the way for the merger. Bennett Holiday is assigned to promote the impression of due diligence to the DoJ, deflecting any allegations of corruption.
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J. R. Jones This is intelligent, committed, and politically provocative, though its narrative puzzle box may prompt you to throw up your hands and let ExxonMobil go on running the world.
David Ansen Its dark, dog-eat-dog vision of the world we live in may give you geopolitical nightmares.
Joshua Rothkopf Evidently, such matters of thematic coherence, so well explored by Gaghan in Traffic, were not as important to him this time around, and it's a mistake.
Stephanie Zacharek It's entirely possible that Gaghan just isn't an actor's director.
Stanley Kauffmann Syriana impresses, not because it is very moving, which it isn't, or because it is crystal clear, which it also isn't, but because it is so large, so encompassing, so seemingly privy to inside stuff.
Ken Tucker As he did in Traffic, Gaghan intertwines his disparate subplots with impeccable pacing -- his screenplay is a model of how to arrange scenes so that each one ends leaving you wanting to know more.
Desson Thomson What's so powerful about the film is the rich stories it tells and how it leads them like so many human tributaries to one black, bubbling source.
Rex Reed Though never a fan of Mr. Clooney onscreen, I doff my hat to him for checking his vanity at the door and trying to make movies with more significance than the weekend grosses in Variety.
Andrew Sarris One can say of Mr. Gaghan, Mr. Soderbergh and Mr. Clooney that their heads may be in the right place in Syriana, but their hearts are not much in evidence as far as any emotional investment in their characters is concerned.
David Denby It's a strange movie, and a stunningly pessimistic one, and the strangeness and pessimism connect it (in my mind, at least) to other recent American films in ways that suggest that something unhappy in the national mood has crept into the movies.
David Edelstein In some ways, we're the protagonist, and when the strands coalesce in the last hour and we glimpse the bigger picture, Syriana finally eats into the mind.
Ella Taylor Seldom have form, content and cultural sensibility been so excitably aligned as in this fascinating, exasperating film about the unholy marriage of power politics and global business.
Richard Corliss [A]n engrossing, insider's tour of the world's hottest spots, grandest schemes and most dangerous men.
J. Hoberman The movie may be too knowing for its own good, but it's not glib and it never goes cheesy.
Richard Roeper This is a cynical but undoubtedly accurate portrayal of the inner workings of international politics, where white-shoe lawyers and oil executives can be nearly as ruthless as the CIA hit men and missile-toting rebels.
Kirk Honeycutt What Syriana feels like is a television miniseries condensed into two hours.
Todd McCarthy The richness of detail is immense.