SYRIANA MOVIE REVIEW 4
Syrianaand Movie Review
Thetheme of religion, specifically Islam is prominent in the film,Syriana. The activities of the American government through the CIAembody the theme of religious antagonism and the ambivalence withwhich Americans and their government have come to conceive of Islam. The characterization and the perpetration of injustice clearlydemonstrate that the American foreign policy is inseparable to thecountry’s view of Islam and its influences in the Middle East. ACIA agent establishes contact with a would-be assassin of a SaudiPrince called the Prince Nasir (played by Alexander Siddig). The planis to have the contact, Bob Barnes (played by George Clooney), set upa successful assassination against the Saudi Prince. However, theplan backfires when the contact betrays the CIA agent. The contactperson is also betrayed by CIA agency as well. Bob Barnes is theoperative whose job is to organize and execute assassinations onbehalf of the CIA. Barnes targets in the Middle East are leaders,rulers, and other prominent personalities that are unwanted in as faras the U.S. global strategic policy is concerned. While in TehranBarnes operates as an illegal arms dealer where he sells two RPGs togroup linked terrorism. One of RPGs Barnes sells ends up in thehands of another buyer he is unfamiliar with. He responds byconfronting him. Their interaction reveals that the strange man isnot Persian, but an Arab. One of the RPGs is loaded and placed in acar belonging to one of the terrorist groups. It explodes and killsall on board. Meanwhile, two American oil drilling corporation makepublic their intentions to merge so that they have the capacity toexploit oil resources in Kazakhstan. The merger causes loss of jobsdue to lay-offs of blue collar workers. Among those who lose theirjobs is Wasim (played by Mazhur Munir). Munir grows desperate afterlosing his job. He decides to join an extremist group. The filmillustrates the challenge of racialized religion in the contemporaryworld. The post-9/11 U.S.’s visual culture has an entrenchedconstruct of Islam where Muslim figures in the Middle East areportrayed as threatening.
Thereare two important themes in the film that create a sense of doubt onwhether Islam in it itself is the motivation behind American foreignpolicies in the Arab world. Firstly, regardless of the charges ofcorruption leveled against two American oil drilling corporations,The Department of Justice engages in a cover that intends to clearthe companies for oil exploration in Kazakhstan. Secondly, the plotto assassinate Prince Nasir is a revenge mission against his decisionto approve a Chinese Company to exploit oil in Saudi, instead of anAmerican company. The ambivalence to the two scenes is that Islam asa religion is amid the pervasion of terrorism. It could also be themodern scapegoat or justification for imperialism abroad. Unfortunately, the American public has fallen into the trap of thereligious antagonism that seems to be the driving force foreignaggression. While terror remains an important subject of modern-dayglobal security, Islam has been made to look almost inseparable fromit.
Thefilm also attempts to correct the pervasive view of Islam asinherently violent in tradition and nature. The juxtaposition isevident in the direct the portrayal American nationalism as utterlyambiguous and Muslims as normally humane. Wasim makes many futileattempts to get another job after being fired in the oil rig upon themerger of the two American companies. He does not take the anger onother people or non-Arabs. Wasim also worries about bringing backhis mother to Iran. Wasim is concerned about Islam, but he also hasother pressing issues unrelated to religion that he has to deal withas a normal human being. In essence, religion, Islam in this case,becomes a form of social therapy with which people seek solace in thewake of life hardships. The film attempts to normalize Muslims inthe same context that other religious people view religion. Forinstance, Wasim receives the Koran from a man who tells him that itcan help him deal with the problem of joblessness and despondencyrather than take his rage to other through anti-Muslim stereotypes.When Wasim becomes part of a group that executes a terror attack on aConnex oil ship, he does it for his deep concern about his mother andpromise of a better life rather than in defense of Islam as it hasoften been portrayed in western terms.
Inconclusion, the film Syriana,complexlyrenders the Muslim world as accommodative and hospitable on one hand,while also portraying it as against the United States. In essence,religion becomes a latent tool that drives Arab hostility towards theUnited States while it is the sole reason for American aggressionagainst Islamic states. The figure of the Muslim is rendered as ageographically and historically legible racial, which is deployed todepict Pakistani migrants as potential terrorists. The Americanforeign policy, especially in the Middle East is comes out as averseto Islam in a way that almost equates it to anti-Americanism.