I mean, for God's sake, how much attention am I supposed to be expected to pay to a film? With all the crying babies, ringing cell phones, blinding text message screens, whispering octogenarians - I'd look up from time to time at another of director Stephen ("Traffic") Gaghan's multi-faceted, multi-storied, political ramblings and wonder if I'd be any more clued in had I just downed a hit of acid and a couple shots of rubbing alcohol.
And yes, that's my way of saying this film is confusing. Gaghan can whine on and on about the dangerous influence of big oil around the world, but until people stop driving and, frankly, heating their homes, oil is going to continue being important and its executives, crooked or not, are going to have influence both inside and outside government.
We're treated to the bad effects of American oil policy primarily through the eyes and actions of a schlubby CIA operative, Bob Barnes (George Clooney), who's been stationed in the Middle East for God knows how long, but whose numerous memos go unanswered by the higher-ups who think his so-called expertise is just a lot of complaining. Essentially, Bob likes to tell his betters that things are complicated in the Middle East while his betters want catchy little phrases and short little answer papers on why single sentence policy will make everything better.
Bob is sent to off one Prince Nasir Al-Subaai (Alexander Siddig), who's suddenly next in line to run Deep Space Nine. Prince Nasir wants to reform his country in a lot of great ways, one of which involves getting rid of their dependence on America. The U.S. government hates that idea and would rather kill him, support his idiot brother, and keep his country in complete and total barbaric chaos than support progress. Here's Gaghan's genius conclusion: money talks and it talks loud. Forgive me if I yawn and claim to have known that one already.
There's a whole slew of supporting actors, but need I go on? Bryan Woodman (Matt Damon) advises the Prince. Bennett Holiday (Jeffrey Wright) works the legal angle for the U.S. government as they slap the hands of the oil barons in a perverted effort to show the power of the law but allow the oil guys to still do their thing. Danny Dalton (Tim Blake Nelson) is a scummy lobbyist who spouts rhetoric like he's the incarnation of every bad dream Al Franken ever had.
Oh yes, this is liberal ranting at its worst - the kind of thing every left-winger goes to see to confirm every paranoid fantasy they've had about the rich and powerful. It's rich, it's powerful, and if you actually believe that some Hollywood filmmaker has even the slightest inkling about what goes on in the world's most powerful circles, you should really have your head examined.
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