When it comes to political thrillers, you’ll rarely find films with such sprawling, epic productions as this 2005 George Clooney vehicle. While filmmakers trotting the globe to shoot on multiple continents is largely reserved for major blockbusters like James Bond movies, location shooting for “Syriana” took place in the United States, Dubai, and Casablanca in Morrocco (via TCM). As director Stephen Gaghan told Charlie Rose, this spellbinding and multi-layered story is supplemented with dialogue pulled from real life discussions that he had with powerful tycoons, media magnates, and foreign dignitaries.
A film with several intertwining narrative threads, Clooney stars as Bob Barnes, a CIA agent who is tasked with assassinating the enigmatic Prince Nasir, but discovers a much more sinister plot as his mission unfolds. Meanwhile, energy analyst Brian Woodman’s son is killed while on a business trip to the Prince’s estate. At the same time, in a separate storyline, American lawyer Bennett Holiday is working on a controversial merger between two major oil producers in the region and must convince the government of its usefulness … and lawfulness.
An impressive ensemble cast surrounds Clooney, including the likes of Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright, Christopher Plummer, and Alexander Siddig. Though Clooney won an Academy Award for his performance, the film didn’t get near the Oscar recognition it deserved. Today, the film is fondly remembered by those who’ve seen it, but it needs more love, and has earned the right to be included on any list of great political thrillers.