"Gorgeous" George Clooney grows a beard and piles on 35lbs of flab to play undercover CIA operative Bob Barnes in this intricate study of America's world-wide involvement in the oil industry. When asked to explain the situation in the Middle East Barnes says "It's complicated" and he's not kidding.

Syriana's labyrinthine plot is composed of four intertwining narrative strands, much like director Stephen Gagan's last project Traffic, that eventually come together in an explosive finale.

A cross between Traffic and a John Le Carre novel, Syriana is a throwback to the political films of the early-70s such as Three Days of the Condor and The Parallax View. Clooney gives an Oscar-winning performance as the grizzled CIA veteran (based on a real life spook Bob Baer) and provides the film’s best moments during a gruesome torture sequence that sees his finger nails ripped out by a blood-thirsty terrorist – even if, for the sake of reality, making him watch himself in Batman & Robin again might have produced quicker results.

Two of the three deleted scenes included in this lightweight extras package shed some light on Barnes’ domestic set-up and, in particular, the strained relationship with his wife Margaret (Greta Scaachi) – who is totally absent from the final cut.

Elsewhere, there is an uninspiring 11-minute featurette that sees Matt Damon pointing out rather obviously that: “We’re addicted to oil. We’ve allowed ourselves to get hooked and it’s running out” and a short Clooney interview full of his usual Liberal viewpoints.

Gaghan doesn't provide a commentary for the main feature.

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Unfortunately Syriana lacks the subtlety of Clooney’s and producer Steven Soderbergh's other recent effort, Good Night and Good Luck, and is almost ruined by Gaghan’s overly-complicated plot.

Further research also reveals that only 24% of US oil is imported form the Middle East, basically destroying the principle tenet upon which the film is based.

Certificate: 18
Staring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Chris Cooper, Christopher Plummer, Amanda Peet
Directed: Stephen Gaghan
Extras: Deleted scenes, 'Make A Change, Make A Difference' featurette, A conversation with George Clooney

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