Film review by: Witney Seibold
Some Texans want to become more wealthy. Two Texas oil companies merge. One has a contract with the Chinese. The Chinese kick out the native Pakistani workers in their Lebanese oil plants. Some Pakistani workers (including Mazhar Munir), destitute without jobs, find comfort in the local Islamic temple. Local Islamic temple offers food and clothing and salvation. Oh, and they just happen to be an extremist group as well, complete with bombs and stuff. Pakistani workers are enlisted to blow up boats.
The Lebanese oil rig, and other oil rigs throughout the Middle East are owned by rulers of varying dubiousness, most notably and honest politician who wants to use his country’s oil wealth to establish a parliament (Alexander Siddig), and his callow brother (Akbar Kurtha), vying for the throne. Guess which one the U.S. wants in charge? And guess what they’ll do to make sure he gets there? In tow, he has a feckless energy analyst who has just lost his son (Matt Damon), and is just learning how complicated the oil game is.
The CIA is interested in who is ruling various countries, of course, and they’ve been sending in their star agent (George Clooney) to deal with various terrorist underlings. They choose this time of mergers and what-have-yous to… uh… y’know it’s about at this point when the connections become a little murky, but the CIA is taking full advantage of the chaos in the Middle East. Needless to say, the agent becomes a scapegoat for some CIA botches.
The merger also requires an investigation of any shady legal dealings, so a lawyer (Jeffrey Wright) is hired, and he finds a lot of dirt. It is understood, though, that he’s not to uncover all the dirt; the merger only needs one or two dirty people to make it look like the job is getting done.
Also in the cast: Amanda Peet, William Hurt, Chris Cooper, Christopher Plummer, and Tim Blake Nelson.
It’s not always clear, but it’s always fascinating. Director Stephen Gaghan (writer of Traffic) keeps everything moving swiftly and quietly (the noisy moments are all muted), and makes some not-so-far-fetched guesses as to exactly how to oil game is played and its connections to criminals abroad, and even more criminals here. The people with bombs and the people in suits, while not meeting together, do indeed dictate one another’s actions. Only the latter, though, make any money out of this. The oil business is more complicated, vital, immediate, lucrative, dangerous, evil, and necessary than even the drug trade in this country, and while the film’s story may be difficult to follow at times, it never once feels disconnected from the real story or anything less than imperative.
Oh, and drive less.
November 23rd, Warner Bros.