Confusing but brilliant,
This review is from: Syriana [DVD]   (DVD)
If "Syriana" were a book, it would be one of those long, scholarly works with 75 pages of footnotes: not something to read for entertainment, but to better understand an important issue. In my opinion that's what this film is about. It illustrates the structures of power, patterns of behaviour and personality types that are involved at all levels of international terrorism (and the war on it) and in the machinations of Big Oil. A large number of people are involved in these machinations and power structures, so you may find yourself wishing you could keep a list of all the names in order to keep track of them (in a book, the footnotes would help you along). So watching this movie requires thinking and pondering, you can't just lean back and relax. You may even need to watch it more than once. I think that's what disappoints many viewers.
Personally though I consider this a masterpiece. Although it's true that there is a lot of fragmentary, mumbled dialog, along with multiple storylines told in parallel, if you don't try too hard to follow the plot you will notice the good pacing, the precise attention to detail, and the pheonomenal acting by Clooney as an overweight, pasty-faced CIA has-been. Even the music is very effective and heightens the tension at the right moments but in an understated way.
Syriana also features some brilliant dialog lines, like the one spoken by Whiting: "In this town you're innocent until you're investigated" - a clever twist on what Americans like to say about their justice system: "In this country you're innocent until proven guilty" - which this movie shows unfortunately to be naive and outmoded. A sad state of affairs - which is exactly what Syriana is telling us.