Wednesday, March 08, 2006

World: Venality in the energy politics of Syriana

Syriana is a strong film. It integrates the worlds of business, government, military and intelligence services, through oil politics. It discusses nation-building and hegemony, but most of all it depicts the combined resources of business and government, fighting a very real economic war. Who’s the root enemy? China*. Throttle them by cutting off their access to energy. Around that crux, the film illustrates how leaders of those entities have a callously casual attitude to people and small nations.

However, the film’s power lies in bringing these issues home to the family and the personal spheres. The most turbulent moment for me was this integration in a scene where an Arab Prince is discussing power plays with a young executive whose boy was accidentally killed at the prince’s party. At one point he executive balks, bitterly referring to blood money for his son’s death. But the riposte is: what price, then, your other son’s life? $100 million instead of $75 million? The accident is called into question, and the threat made. (It was an accident, but it was used coldly.)

But the venality is shared on all sides. It’s venal, sometimes violent. By comparison, so is Sin City, for example - albeit much more so. Here I would argue that Syriana's violence was central to the thesis of the film, whereas Sin City is more a gratuitous celebration of violence.

Again, in contrast Sin City was driven by personal gratification, personal vendetta. In Syriana, most of the violence was orchestrated at a distance. With an executive flick of the hand, someone’s fate is written off.

Yet, which is more callous: violence executed personally for personal reasons, or for professional reasons at a distance?

Not a simple film to watch. The Herald said you need a whiteboard to understand it; the Sun Herald said it’s one of the few films to underestimate its audience.

Dense, intelligent, powerful.

*Again! See my first post, Feb-06.

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