Dir: Stephen Gaghan
Star: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Cooper

Gaghan was the writer of Traffic and it's obvious he's going for the same feel here: an interwoven, densely-packed series of threads, with a message that things are more complex than they seem. The results here are much less satisfying, with the end result meriting not much more than a confused shake of the head. It centers on a CIA agent (Damon), an energy analyst (Damon) and a lawyer (Wright), whose paths cross over the petroleum rights for a fictional Middle Eastern kingdom. US government policy, business interests, family politics, terrorism, and oil dependence all come into play, as the factions jostle to ensure things play out the way they want them.

Certainly, it's plausible, and there's something to be said for the way everyone is only defined in shades of grey, with a very small change in spectrum between heroes and villains. But I can't say that it makes for enthralling cinema, since we can't find much reason to root for one party, or even against any other. Really, "I can see your point of view," is a good thing to have for a geopolitical discussion, but for a movie...less so. The film leaps around in space like an amphetamine-crazed Powerpoint presentation - Geneva! Washington! The Middle East! Spain! - but there's never much of a sense of escalation or development, with the characters seeming little more than pawns, both of each other, and the director, to be pushed around at a whim. Imagine a political science lecture from a professor with interesting material but very little charisma, and that's what this feels like.

[June 2007]

Oiling the wheels
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