Volume 75, Number 30 | December 14 - 20, 2005

Koch On Film

By Ed Koch

“Syriana” (+)
While several friends suggested that I see this film, they all commented on its unresolved ending.

Bob Barnes (George Clooney) is a CIA undercover operative. Attorney Bennett Holiday (Jeffrey Wright) works for a law firm that represents a large oil company that lost a major contract. He is assigned to examine whether American companies vying for Arab oil contracts are violating U.S. tax laws forbidding them to pay bribes, even though they may lose those valuable oil contracts to foreign companies that do pay them.

One of the scenes includes an Islamic torturer in Lebanon who describes the levels of torture while he works over Barnes and leaves him bloody and screaming on the floor of his cell. Bryan Woodman (Matt Damon) is a business consultant with a wife (Amanda Peet) and two young children. He is hired by Prince Nasir (Alexander Siddig) the older son of the Emir who is being skipped over in the line of succession because he is too interested in reform in his country, which looks like Saudi Arabia. Siddig, meanwhile, reminds one of a younger, thinner Omar Sharif. His younger brother, Prince Meshal (Akbar Kurtha), a playboy, is more acceptable to the oil barons.

The script is quite muddled, and it is hard to tell whose side some of the characters are on. There is an irrelevant tragedy. The scenery is magnificent, and it is like a trip to the Middle East without the risk of getting shot, kidnapped, or incinerated.

HS said: “The picture has nothing to do with Syria, so I can’t see why it’s called Syriana. No Jews (from elsewhere) or Israelis appear anywhere in the movie. Clooney can expect large audiences in the Middle East in view of its anti-American attitudes.”

The CIA is in league with an oil company and commits direct murder, and America’s technology, which can take out the good guys with missiles, is demonstrated with great success. This movie, based on the book “See No Evil” by former CIA agent Robert Baer, is as hostile to America as one can get. Nevertheless, with all of its flaws in script and politics, it is an interesting film because the individual actors do a superb job in creating their characters. In addition, the scenes in the Persian Gulf area, from a squalid city area in Lebanon to a luxury hotel, all convey a sense of reality. We are also shown the mosque and school responsible for creating future “martyrs” who are willing to die to kill the infidels, which, of course, are the Americans, Christians, Jews, and Hindus. The latter are not mentioned in the film but in real life, they are often among the intended victims of terrorism.

Will we ever see a movie that truly captures the feelings of those fundamentalist Islamic fascists who want to kill Christians, Jews, and Hindus who refuse to recognize the supremacy of Islam? We are in a war of civilizations that will continue for many years. Is Hollywood capable of maintaining truth and accuracy in its films even if it means America comes out ahead? I hope so.

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