Time Out says
Mon Feb 27 2006Having tackled the war on drugs in his Oscar-winning screenplay for ‘Traffic’, writer-director Stephen Gaghan’s startlingly ambitious geopolitical fresco considers the complex connections between American oil interests, autocratic Arab regimes and the spawning of Islamic terrorism in the Gulf states. The casting shorthand of name-actors adeptly helps the viewer through a thicket of exposition: beardy George Clooney puts on gravitas with his extra poundage as the veteran CIA agent questioning his lot when a missile falls into potentially dangerous hands; Matt Damon exudes hard-working ambition as the energy analyst bending the ear of the progressively inclined prince (Alexander Siddig) with designs on the throne in an oil-rich, politically stagnant Arab nation; dedicated Jeffrey Wright is the lawyer investigating the murky activities of a Texan oil conglomerate jostling for position in the said state, where extremist Muslim clerics bend the ears of impressionable foreign oil workers looking for some purpose to their lives of drudgery.
It’s an incendiary combination, but not a simple one, and the film demands and repays close attention as it criss-crosses lives and continents. Although it’s arguably cut too tight to do full justice to the character minutiae shaping each individual micro-drama, the breadth of the canvas is the thing here, together with a keen, questioning intelligence uncovering conspiracy and cock-up alike in the counter-productive controlling agenda of American oil and ideology. True, there’s little to surprise assiduous newshounds, but the mere act of laying all this out for a mainstream audience deserves admiration, as do the slinky orchestration of cumulative tension and impeccable performances right down the cast list. Stick with it and be rewarded.
Author: Trevor Johnston
Fri Mar 3, 2006