Storylines do begin to converge about halfway through the film, or later, and we finally begin to get the sense that the seemingly unrelated pieces of this complex mosaic are starting to make a larger picture, even if we don’t exactly understand what it is. Bob Barnes’ first return to Beirut marks a definite turning point in the film. Things pick up from there. At this point we begin to feel that Syriana is going somewhere, that the stakes are mounting and some significant resolution might take place.
Despite its complicated construction, I recommend Syriana. It is one of those movies whose ending has the retroactive effect of suddenly making the whole picture seem better, and making us realize that there was more to it than we may have initially realized, that beneath the confusion there was substance after all. For people who liked Traffic, you may already be inclined to enjoy Syriana, as both films were written by Stephen Gaghan, and bear much of the same structural approach to telling their story, with Syriana revealing government (American) corruption in the Middle East and Traffic showing the same thing in South America. As well, the film is visually satisfying, as I have described. There is a real sense of going on a journey, through a few dark tunnels, so to speak, and I enjoyed the “subconscious” feel of it.
In the end, I believe I felt what director Stephen Gaghan wanted me to feel: stunned, and perhaps a little bit more aware, if I wasn’t already fairly suspicious, of just how deep the connections run in Washington between the oil companies and espionage, between business and terrorism. I look forward to a second viewing of Syriana.