Return To Home Page
April 10, 2007
Syriana Blu-Ray - Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
15/2/20068/2/2007Warner BrothersStephen Gaghan
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
VC-1DD5.1 640kbpsMA15+George Clooney

Click To Enlarge Image
The Australian Blu-Ray Packshot.
Syriana is a movie that really put me in two minds. If you go in looking for some kind of Bourne Identity styled espionage action movie you will be bitterly disappointed, but if you're looking for a thought provoking political thriller this will have you hooked. Directed by Stephen Gaghan, and with multiple story threads in a similar vein used in Traffic (Which he wrote), the movie revolves around the oil industry.

The storyline is quite complex but is described as follows... Big oil means big money. Very big money. And that fact unleashes corruption that stretches from Houston to Washington to the Mideast - and ensnares industrialists, princes, spies, politicos, oilfield labourers and tesrrorists in a deadly, deceptive web of move and countermove.

It has to be said that the cast puts in wonderful performances across the board. George Clooney as CIA agent Bob Barnes won an Oscar for his efforts, but he is well supported by Jeffrey Wright as Bennett Holiday, Matt Damon as Bryan Woodman and Alexander Siddig (who many would know as Dr Bashier from Star Trek) as Prince Nasir Al-Subaai.

Shot in an almost documentary style the movie is one that requires quite a bit of concentration - missing even one small scene can change the entire dynamic of the movie. The way in which the movie conveys the lifestyle in the Middle East is extremely impressive and certainly one of the highlights however I feel that to many people the movie won't quite have a strong enough storyline to sustain interest over the 128 minute runtime.

Click To Enlarge Image
George Clooney is fantastic.
Yet again Warner Brothers have come up with the goods in terms of video quality on their Blu-Ray title. Encoded with the VC-1 format at 1080p and in a ratio of 2.40:1 this is yet another a great example of where Blu-Ray shines over DVD - and we have both versions to perform a direct comparison, which we did. In reality there is no comparison. The clarity and vibrance (even for such a dull "sandy" and intentionally grainy film) is vastly superior on the Blu-Ray version. There were still scenes that were a little soft, and the documentary styled filmmaking makes it hard to pick faults in the transfer, but overall this release is pristine.

Audio in the title is encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 at 640kbps (which compares to the 384kbps on the DVD version). As a primarily dialogue based movie the use of surround sound is very limited and it's certainly not a movie which one would use to demonstrate the audio capabilities of either your theatre or the Blu-Ray format. As with the video the audio is done with a documentary feel which means it can be a little flat at times. Still, there doesn't appear to be any technical issues with this transfer at any times.

Click To Enlarge Image
Alexander Siddig and Matt Damon.
It must be said that even with the inclusion of a couple of extras not seen on the recent DVD release this disc still feels a bit lightweight on the extras, especially given the heavy - and quite relevant to today's society - subject matter. I would have loved to hear an audio commentary with the real CIA agents (this movie is loosly based on a book by CIA agent Robert Baer called See No Evil) or the cast and crew. New extras found on this Blu-Ray release include a Conversation with Matt Damon, and the very informative documentary called Reality into Drama: A Filmmaker's Journey. Sadly, all the extras are in Standard Definition including the deleted scenes.

Reality into Drama: A Filmmaker's Journey (26.08):

    With a runtime of 26 minutes this documentary is actually a quite revealing look at the time and effort required to create a movie such as Syriana including the trouble dealing with actors of different nationalities and in different languages as well as the various locations used when filming the movie. Not the best behind the scenes documentary ever, but it is interesting enough to sit through at least once.

A Conversation with Matt Damon (7.14):

    Matt Damon primarily describes his character in the movie, and the journey he takes. Not too much new here.

A Conversation with George Clooney (9.11):

    A bit more interesting then the Matt Damon interview as George discusses what it was like being a part of teh movie.

Click To Enlarge Image
George Clooney as CIA agent Bob Barnes.

Make a Change, Make a Difference (11.19):

    The main players in the film discuss America's fixation with oil and how the world may be impacted when it runs out. Mildly interesting, but way too short to be of substance.

Deleted Scenes (6.00):

    Three deleted scenes that add a bit more background to the story.

Trailer (2.17):

    The theatrical trailer for the movie.

This political thriller is certainly one of the better ones in recent years and with an all-star cast it's one which should appeal to a wide audience. This Blu-Ray version includes a fantastic video and audio transfer, but is a bit light on with the extras. If you liked the movie you won't be disappointed with this Blu-Ray release.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Warner Brothers Ent. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.