Generally favorable reviews - based on 40 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 36 out of 40
  2. Negative: 0 out of 40
  1. 100
    Takes off with the lightning speed of a thriller, the gonzo force of frontline journalism and the emotional wallop of a drama that puts a human face on shocking statistics.
  2. 100
    An endlessly fascinating movie.
  3. For two hours I felt like a kitten chasing an elusive ball of catnip that remained just beyond my paw.
  4. A film that transcends its obvious timeliness to say some elemental things about personal loyalty and institutional betrayal.
  5. A fearless and ambitious piece of work, made with equal parts passion and calculation, an unapologetically entertaining major studio release with compelling real-world relevance, a film that takes numerous risks and thrives on them all.
  6. What's so powerful about the film is the rich stories it tells and how it leads them like so many human tributaries to one black, bubbling source.
  7. 88
    In today's environment, it's a rare thing to find a movie with interesting characters in dense, intelligent storylines, but that's what Syriana offers. It is one of the best films of 2005.
  8. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    A gripping and fascinating tale of political intrigue that spans three continents, its focus trained on the volatile Middle East. It's a global portrait of danger, deception and disillusionment, with no dearth of human casualties.
  9. 88
    Clooney, who gained 35 pounds for the role, gives a self-effacing but highly effective performance.
  10. 83
    A gripping movie about espionage, loyalty and betrayal.
  11. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    A weighty and deeply intriguing look at the many-tentacled beast that is the international oil industry. Wide-ranging and restlessly probing, Stephen Gaghan's second directorial effort uses the same mosaic storytelling technique as in his Oscar-winning screenplay for "Traffic."
  12. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    This is a movie that sticks its political neck out, that throbs with dread, paranoia and outrage, that doesn't coddle the audience by neatly tying things up.
  13. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Not a conventionally satisfying movie but a kind of illustrated journalism: an engrossing, insider's tour of the world's hottest spots, grandest schemes and most dangerous men.
  14. 80
    Given the large cast, the international hopscotch, and the tantalizing illusion of depth, the movie's tone is "Frontline" meets John le Carré. Compared to the complacence of something like "The Interpreter," it's a regular brain tickler.
  15. 80
    Gaghan brings in many more players, but edits the film into the lean, propulsive shape of a thriller. That ends up being something of a problem; some sub-plots never fully untangle and characters get lost as Gaghan rushes toward a conclusion that, taken on its own, is the stuff of a slightly hysterical leftie pamphlet.
  16. It aims to be a great deal more than a standard geopolitical thriller and thereby succeeds in being one of the best geopolitical thrillers in a very long time.
  17. 80
    Seldom have form, content and cultural sensibility been so excitably aligned as in this fascinating, exasperating film about the unholy marriage of power politics and global business.
  18. 80
    A bleak and powerful movie, made all the more sobering by how much of it isn't fiction.
  19. Reviewed by: Colin Kennedy
    Demanding, even confusing at times, this is required viewing that requires your full attention.
  20. Syriana is the most challenging and uncompromising movie to come out of Hollywood in a long time.
  21. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    We can only hope that the time frame is meant to be sometime before 9/11, and not after. Either way, it's a troubling vision of how terrorism and "martyrdom" occur on both sides of this ghostly war, and is both perpetrated and facilitated by the very forces enlisted to stop it.
  22. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    Syriana depicts a system so thoroughly and intractably rotten that the standard liberal how-you-can-make-a-difference solutions--being more conscientious about using electricity, getting a hybrid car, and so on--only look like so much spit in the face of an atomic fireball.
  23. Reserved yet still suspenseful and hugely ambitious, Syriana sets out to prove what many have come to suspect -- that oil money is the root of all contemporary evil.
  24. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Politically, Syriana is a card-carrying liberal, more in tune with Le Carre and Greene than with Clancy.
  25. 75
    In its seriousness, Syriana has an absorbing, ominous roundness that plays even better with a second viewing.
  26. 75
    Gaghan is attempting to cover so much ground in Syriana that the movie at times feels a little suffocating.
  27. 70
    Clooney is the soul of Syriana, and his face is what you're left with long after the movie's obsessive plot details have sifted away.
  28. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    A grim, twisty international conspiracy picture that challenges the audience on every level, political and aesthetic. The aesthetic part is a bit of an obstacle, though. I can't remember a time I had as much trouble--at a movie I admired--just figuring out what the hell was going on.
  29. The film itself operates on shifting sands. Shot documentary-style, by Robert Elswit, and accompanied by a pounding soundtrack, Syriana makes high-octane melodrama look like revealed truth.
  30. 70
    A major film without being a great film. It's a strange movie, and a stunningly pessimistic one, and the strangeness and pessimism connect it to other recent American films in ways that suggest that something unhappy in the national mood has crept into the movies.
  31. Gaghan's a filmmaker for the gamer who doesn't need to have the plot follow a neat, linear path. Besides, you don't need to know precisely what's going on; no one else in the film does either. Which is Gaghan's point.
  32. 70
    This is intelligent, committed, and politically provocative, though its narrative puzzle box may prompt you to throw up your hands and let Exxon go on running the world.
  33. This multiplicity--of people, stories, settings--is both the weakness and strength of the film. It is not easy to follow all the various threads, to get the pith of every scene. Still, this very abundance gives the whole picture a sense of authority.
  34. Indeed, the point of Syriana appears to be that the whole lousy, corrupt, oil-producing and -consuming world is a ball of wax, ready to melt.
  35. Syriana falls down at the most basic storytelling level, and this incoherence damages even the good parts.
  36. The movie adds up to one of the smartest and most ambitious political thrillers in years. But if you find a more difficult movie to follow this year, it will be in Mandarin without subtitles.
  37. It's simply not a very good movie. Its story line is populated with so many characters and meaningless names that it's nearly impossible to follow, and its author's message doesn't amount to much more than a cry of despair.
  38. 58
    The movie comes together like a nihilistic jigsaw puzzle - with a few pieces removed for that special, indefinable dash of pseudo-density.
  39. The character and geographical jumps leave you in a muddle with thinly sketched personalities and confusing plot points. Worse, dialogue dense with nuance and shaded meaning flies by too quickly.
  40. It's hard to get swept away when you're struggling to figure out who's doing what to whom and why.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 359 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 40 out of 162
  1. Dec 25, 2014
    Syriana is ultimately a mixed bag. On the positive, it is extremely well shot. I really loved the look and feel of this film and that isSyriana is ultimately a mixed bag. On the positive, it is extremely well shot. I really loved the look and feel of this film and that is ultimately the thing that stood out most to me. The script from Stephen Gaghan is also very strong and well written, though complicated. However, it has its moments of brilliance and has very tight dialogue throughout. The casting is also very good as everybody really fit the roles they were cast in well. Finally, it certainly had a great ending packed with thrills that made build up worth it and allowed some insight into what had just transpired over the last two hours. Sadly, there are some major negatives. Firstly, the multiple storylines are interesting and enjoyable, but it stifles the acting of the great cast. Phenomenally cast, nobody is able to standout as they are barely there, so nobody has time to establish their performance. In addition, it can really slow down at times and get boring. Like, really boring. There are moments that really hook you in, but others that nearly put you to sleep, which is a problem. Most importantly, I felt like it was trying too hard to make its audience confused. I like the idea that it was purposeful, but there was very little to latch onto. Ultimately, Syriana is a very well made film with moments of brilliance that falters for the same reasons that make it good. Full Review »
  2. PZJ
    Nov 29, 2014
    Not a great movie. People say it's intellectual but it's just not that deep of a movie. Yes, it has some deeper themes than your typicalNot a great movie. People say it's intellectual but it's just not that deep of a movie. Yes, it has some deeper themes than your typical hollywood movie but that's not a high bar. The movie follows too many characters with disparate stories, which is what requires the attention and ability to connect plot lines, but you never get to know any of them well enough to care about what happens to anybody. Full Review »
  3. Sep 1, 2014
    Syriana is not your everyday thriller in the Middle East. It's often intellectual and thought-provoking. Nevertheless, I found little interestSyriana is not your everyday thriller in the Middle East. It's often intellectual and thought-provoking. Nevertheless, I found little interest beyond George Clooney--who barely held lead status. Full Review »