With its crosscutting, interconnected story lines, Syriana is essentially Traffic with oil instead of drugs. There’s a direct connection, as writer-director Stephen Gaghan also did the screenplay for Traffic. The two films also share a respect for the audience that translates into complex storytelling that doesn’t over-explain itself, doesn’t wait for you to catch up.
As a faded, chubby CIA agent, George Clooney (the heartthrob went full Method with the weight gain here) gives one of his more nuanced and non-muggy performances. As a grieving businessman, Matt Damon (the guy’s everywhere on this list) can do no wrong. Yet, it’s Alexander Siddig, as the independent, reform minded prince of an unnamed Middle Eastern emirate, who shines with dignity and restraint. Also, look out for Tom McCarthy, who played a weaselly reporter in the final season of The Wire, as a weaselly CIA official.
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