Mathew Englander (mathew5000) wrote,
Mathew Englander

Questions about Syriana

I liked the film Syriana, but am still wondering about a number of things. I meant to post this a while ago, but now is as good a time as any because the DVD was released recently. Spoilers below.

1. At the start of the movie, George Clooney sells two Stinger missiles to the Amiri brothers in Tehran. He is going to kill them immediately afterward by blowing up their car, but he is taken by surprise when they give one of the Stingers to someone else (the “blue-eyed Egyptian”). But why did he have genuine Stingers in the first place? Couldn’t the CIA have made convincing replicas, that would have been cheaper as well as safer?

2. When the blue-eyed Egyptian (identified in the screenplay as Mohammed Sheik Agiza) is pointing a gun at George Clooney, Clooney says to him, in Farsi, “You don’t speak Farsi, do you, you son of a goat?”. Isn’t that just really stupid, on the off-chance that although Egyptian, the blue-eyed sheik does understand some Farsi?

3. The film has a scene early on where Bennett Holliday visits Christopher Plummer (Dean Whiting, head of the law firm) working in his garden. This scene is not in the screenplay; presumably it was shot after the rest of the film? There’s a scene later on (screenplay, scene 60) where Christopher Plummer sees Bennett Holliday in a restaurant and pretends that he had never discussed the merger with Holliday alone. When that scene was actually filmed, had they already planned the garden scene? Anyway, in the garden scene, Christopher Plummer says something to the effect of “if you find anything, come straight to me before telling anyone else.” But later on, when Jimmy Pope tells Holliday that Sydney Hewitt is corrupt, it seems that Holliday does not go directly to Christopher Plummer.

4. The interplay over the course of the film between Bennett Holliday and Donald Farish (the U.S. Attorney) strikes me as unrealistic. At their first meeting, if I understand correctly, Farish suggests to Holliday that the only reason he was hired was to be a scapegoat (screenplay, scene 58). That makes no sense to me; how could he be a plausible scapegoat when he was hired after the merger? And even if it did make sense, it’s unethical for Farish to try to use that as leverage, so I don’t believe Farish would be so blatant about it.

5. Not only that, but in scene 59 Holliday expressly describes Farish as “a good man. Smart. Honest”. So is the film saying that Farish’s conduct is not unethical? Or is Holliday supposed to be lying at this point in describing Farish as honest?

6. Come to think about it, I don’t really buy that Holliday would go to Farish’s office by himself in scene 58 for that kind of meeting. More likely Hewitt would be there too. Either that or Holliday would be meeting with a junior lawyer in Farish’s office, not Farish himself.

7. In scene 60 of the screenplay Christopher Plummer says “as they say in the bible, there are many, many ways to light Europe”. Was that line in the film? What is it supposed to mean; is it a paraphrase of an actual Biblical quotation?

8. George Clooney’s character is said to have infiltrated Hezbollah in the 1980s in Beirut. Then when the CIA assigns him to go back to Beirut to arrange the assassination of Julian Bashir (Prince Nasir Al-Subaai), Clooney isn’t sure whether Beirut will be safe so he goes to ask William Hurt, who simply says “Clear it with Hezbollah” (scene 67). So far, so good. But didn’t he mean “Clear it with Hezbollah before you enter Lebanon” (for example, using an intermediary in a third country)? Instead Clooney travels to Beirut and then meets with the leader of Hezbollah to ask, essentially, if they are going to kill him. But if the answer is yes, isn’t it too late at that point? Or am I misunderstanding something?

9. In scene 130, Chris Cooper (Jimmy Pope, president of Killeen) says “I have personally seen a bill from this law firm to the government of Saudi Arabia for 36 million dollars. A one line bill for services rendered.” Firstly, how would he possibly have seen that bill? Someone in the Saudi government showed it to him? If so why? Secondly, what is his point? Is he alleging that Whiting Sloan is in a conflict of interest of some sort?

10. I didn’t fully understand what went on between George Clooney and Christopher Plummer. Did Plummer arrange for Clooney to be put under investigation? Was it Plummer who had Mussawi torture Clooney? If so, why? And how did Clooney find out that it was Plummer?

11. Did Farish have a mole in Connex/Killeen? If so, who was it?

By the way, the screenplay is here (PDF) at the film’s official site.
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