128 minutes, rated R for violence and language
Those who are looking for pleasant films with tidy, heartwarming endings need read no further. Syriana has none of what you seek.
The film is a disturbing, intelligent work that examines the geopolitical struggle for oil in which we find ourselves. Syriana depicts a world where multinationals compete for limited petroleum supplies, governments curry favor with the corporations, and most of the people on the planet live out their lives trying not to think too hard about the ugly truth.
Those dig too hard for the truth wind up bitter. Or dead.
There are no heroes in the film, as every character exhibits contemtible personality flaws; the business of oil seems to corrupt everyone involved.
This is not a great film, as director Stephen Gaghan's love of interwoven storylines sometimes makes the plot hard to follow. Too often the characters revert to stereotype (greedy CEOs, soulless government operatives, violent Islamists), and the occasional subtitles during Arabic, Farsi, and Urdu conversations tend to be annoyingly placed over bright backgrounds, making dialogue hard to follow.
Still, Syriana is an important work, if for no other reason than for its ability to spark debate. It is bleak, it offers no simplistic solutions, and it is a film that you should rent tonight.
Just don't look to the film as a few hours of escapist diversion, because the questions implicitly asked in the film will stick with you for a long time.