From Narnia & Syriana to Good Night & Good Luck

I have to admit that I thought Syriana would turn out to be an Arab/Muslim bashing movie and I could not have been more wrong. Writer/director Stephen Gaghan who brought us the drug movie Traffic a few years ago brings us almost a photocopy of that movie revolving on a different theme: oil.

Like Traffic you have an all star cast of actors playing small roles in a series of stories which are all connected by the end. The story is very complex and is at times difficult to follow although I have to consider the fact that even the characters, with their narrow worldview of the on going events, lack the foresight of the full picture.

George Clooney plays a CIA op whose life’s work has been centered on assassinations and conflict in the Middle East and Persian Gulf. It is only now that he is put in a situation where he begins to question whose orders he’s been following and why.

Matt Damon plays an economic expert and trader whose invited with his family to the home of a Gulf King in Spain where he meets tragedy and has his life turned upside down. The King whose health is failing has two sons facing a power struggle to secure their place for the throne. One is a young spoiled and traditionally pro-status quo in his country, while the other, the eldest is played by Alexander Siddig (Dr. Bashir in Star Trek DS9 and more recently Saladinâ??s right hand man in Kingdom of Heaven) is a well educated idealist reformer who wants nothing more than to change the state of his country.

Chris Cooper plays the top oil exec of Killen, a company on the verge of merging with another and thus creating one of the most powerful oil companies around. The talented Jeffery Wright plays the corporate lawyer assigned to assess the political ramifications of the company in its bid to win governmental approval and faces moral dilemmas when pushed towards concentrating on more “favorable” results of the merger.

Meanwhile a young and poor Muslim Pakistani teenager falls into the hands of a charismatic terrorist recruiter who leads him astray by teaching him what large role he has to play in this movie.

Syriana is a movie about the different players in the current situation we are in today. It makes no attempt of making any heroes, it presumes there are no western good guys and eastern bad guys, in fact almost everyone is pretty much the bad guy except for the characters who seek to change the situation.

It is fascinating to watch Syriana as it is an example of how connected all the news we hear everyday really is. From terrorists to corporate mergers to Iran to the gulf. I admit it is at times confusing and hard to follow as the stories shift back and forth although the audience’s attention is brought to full capacity towards the end when all the connections are made and the conclusions of every story are drawn.

Bottom Line: 5/5

The Chronicles of Narnia is based on the children’s book by C.S. Lewis who also gave us Alice in Wonderland. I will make no “the book is better” statements as it is one I read over 13 years ago and I can hardly remember what I had last night for dinner. The story centers around 4 children, 2 brothers and 2 sisters who are sent away from London during war time to be safe at a professor’s home where they discover a wardrobe that leads them into a fantasy world; a world that is frozen by an evil witch. They come to learn that they are the humans who are part of a prophecy that revolves around destroying the witch and freeing Narnia.

The story is embedded with allusions to Christianity where the children are referred to as the “Sons of Adam” and the “Daughters of Eve”. Not to mention Aslan the lion, the leader of the war against the Witch (or devil), who interestingly enough sacrifices himself willingly after he is betrayed, only to come back from the dead.

Religion aside it is a strange movie to say the least, mainly because it does not have the adultness of Lord of the Rings nor its darkness as it refuses to even show blood, however it also shows an epic battle seen filled with armies being killed. Interestingly enough Iâ??ve never seen a movie with so many realistically digitalized animals.

It is one of those movies I would dread to give a bad review because it’s just so big, but at the same time it finds itself dragging with a lengthy story about good and evil where almost everything is predictable.

Bottom Line: 3/5

Goodnight and Good luck is the kind of film high school history teachers show their students when teaching them American History. It is indeed taken right out of the books of the era of McCarthyism and the famous witch hunts for communists in the 40’s and 50’s. It centers on Edward Murrow the CBS newsman who took on senator McCarthy during a time where everyone feared to. Murrow is played rather brilliantly by David Strathairn who deserves an Oscar nomination for this performance in my opinion. Murrow takes on McCarthy with the help of his staff lead by Fred Friendly played by George Clooney who also directed the movie fairly well I might add.

The public feud between Murrow and Mcarthy is the center of the story which is more of a reflection by Murrow’s character a few years later as he gives a speech at an award ceremony honoring him. It is filmed completely in black and white with a realistic feel of the 1950’s. And thank God Clooney did not drag the movie on into an unnecessary 120 minutes as it rounds out at a comfortable 90. The movie also has a cast that includes Robert Downey Jr, Patricia Clarkson, Jeff Daniels and Frank Langella.

Bottom Line: 4/5


  • i heard a lot about this movie Syriana, and now you rate it 5/5. so i have to search about it and get it soon.
    if gorge cloney and matt damon were togather in one movie, then the movie must bee great…

  • I saw Syriana last night–wasn’t expecting much either–and loved it. It nearly blew me away. It was full of nuance–not your standard, stereotypical Arabs–and for the first time ever, I felt like a mainstream Hollywood movie got as close as ever to portraying the Arab world as it really is. I’d been hearing so much about how labyrinthine the plot was, but I didn’t find it difficult to follow at all. I think for most people the difficulty may simply be not having much background knowledge of the Middle East.

    Glad you liked it to, and I can’t recommend it enough.

  • Nas, with all the reviews I read for Syriana (and having read George Clooney’s stand) I’m not surprised at all. Maybe Hollywood is coming around?

    Narnia will be the film we take the whole fam to. It is MEANT to be a children’s story (although Tolkein and Lewis were close, two different audiences), telling the story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in allegorical form. I was raised so irreligiously I didn’t get it when I read it at 12. My husband read the kids the whole series (for the second time) in anticipation of the movie.

    I heard that LWW has been translated into Arabic (maybe eventhe whole series?) and should be available now.

  • Amanda, I agree with you about the realism, but you know after all these years they still havnt been able to get the language right. There were maybe 2 arabs in the whole film that could speak properly. everyone else i needed subtitles.

  • I’ve watched Chronicles of Narnia last night, it was very good, the best thing about it is the large number of weird creatures presented. But I expected something like the LOT, this one is a children movie.

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