Syriana is a brilliant film. Deeply flawed in some ways (packs in too much material and some characterization suffers as a result, as does the film’s lucidity) but the strengths render these quite irrelevant IMHO. There are some brilliant performances (Clooney is sublime, even with limited screen time) and the screenplay is ambitious as all hell. Its about time a movie like this came along. Its scathing and realistic and unabashedly political and pulls no punches. Also features one of the more stomach churning torture scenes I have seen.
The issues of corruption and US foreign policy influencing domestic policies in Middle Eastern states is a complex one and too much to fit into a movie of this length but I think it managed very well to cover all it’s bases even if that meant that the pacing was off at times and characterisations were broad strokes for many characters.
I think the message is more than just that oil companies act reprehensibly. Of course they do they are large multinational companies they’ll do whatever turns a profit and to do that as an oil company means corrupting or influencing governments. The message also is that our governments let them behave this way because it is believed it is in the best interests of our nations (both the US and the UK) for them to do so. This is kind of paralleled with the movie The Constant Gardener but in that it is pharmaceutical companies.