In the Dark

Out of Gas

Syriana
Produced and distributed by Warner Brothers
Written and directed by Stephen Gaghan

George Clooney wants you to know that he’s got gravitas.  To prove it, he packed on an extra 35 pounds for his latest roles.  In Good Night, and Good Luck, a film he directed, he plays Fred Friendly, the portly television producer who worked closely with Edward R. Murrow at CBS.  Now, in Steven Gaghan’s Syriana, a film Clooney helped produce, he pads about the oven-hot Middle East in a full-face beard, looking like a miserable, overfed zoo bear.  He is Bob Barnes, a fictional character based on Bob Baer, a disaffected former CIA operative.  Since Baer has looked quite trim and upbeat in his recent television appearances, Clooney’s decision to play him as a morose fatty seems strange.  Has he succumbed to Oscar fever?  Getting fat for art has become Hollywood’s ne ultra plus demonstration of thespian integrity.  Robert DeNiro and Charlize Theron have won Oscars for flaunting flab on screen; maybe Clooney will also.

I mention the fat factor because, like Clooney, Syriana is bloated with its own gravitas.  The film begs to be rewarded for its seriousness.  It has the look and feel of a gritty, no-holds-barred dramatization of America’s fatal involvement with Middle East oil politics, but,...

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