That’s Milton Friedman. He got a goddamn Nobel Prize!

A rare treat: we attended an advance film screening this evening. Happens much less than you might think for the Film Editor of the Radio Times, mainly because film screenings happen in London and I don’t live in London. However, at the moment, I do work in London, seven days a week, so I exploited that fact and did what I used to do all the time when I lived in the capital. It was at the headquarters of Warner Bros, which means a very nice screening room indeed, with lovely seats, luxurious legroom (you can actually move along the rows without anyone getting up or treading on their toes) and, I can only imagine, state-of-the-art projection and sound. I bumped into the comedian Lucy Porter in the bar, who was reviewing it for Giles Coren’s new film programme on Five. She said she didn’t know anything about films. I reminded her that most newspaper film critics don’t know anything about films either. She also said she fancies George Clooney. I told her that in a funny sort of way, so do I.

The film, written and directed by Stephen Gaghan, and very much in the multi-stranded style of Traffic, which he also wrote, is to oil and the Middle East what Crash was to race and Los Angeles. If I am the gallery, Syriana is playing to me. If I am the choir, it is preaching to me. It presents Texan oilmen and a venal US government as the baddies. Centred around an unnamed, oil-rich Middle Eastern country whose Emir is on his way out and succession could send relations with the US either way, Clooney plays a wild card CIA rebel with a beard and a belly and a beige suit, but his is just one of the strands; we also get Jeffrey Wright’s dogged and seemingly principled lawyer investigating an oil merger; Matt Damon’s eight-year-old energy trader working in Geneva; Chris Cooper’s oilman who appears to have zebras on his Texas ranch for the armchair big-game hunting thereof; and Shahid Ahmed’s young, disillusioned Pakistani immigrant who loses his job after a Chinese takeover and finds solace at the local madrassa, and we all know what happens to disillusioned young men who find solace at the local madrassa in this kind of story. You will see the ending coming. Maybe that’s the point. As Matt Damon says, “It’s running out. This is a fight to the death.”

It’s a terrific, intelligent, demanding, provocative film. Great credit to all concerned for getting this uncomfortable story funded and backed and told. Neocons will view it as join-the-dots liberal porn. That’s my favourite kind. It reminded me, in style and scope, of the great political films of the 70s, Parallax View, All The President’s Men etc. And there’s a really gruesome torture scene. Look away now.

And all that legroom. Syriana is released on March 3.

As for Clooney’s spare tyre, well, he does have to appear stripped to the waist in the torture scene, and the gaffer tape make him look even bulgier, but he didn’t have to pile on the pounds. He could have worn an Eddie Murphy-style fatsuit. But I admire him, as a hunk, for doing it. His character has, after all, gone to seed a bit.


2 thoughts on “That’s Milton Friedman. He got a goddamn Nobel Prize!

  1. I don’t fancy Clooney.At all.Though I do like his attempt to bring a touch of non-neocon-thinking to the masses. Good man.But still, it’s not like he got Really Fat fot the role, is it? Vain, vain, vain.

  2. It’s all degrees. He got fatter than Renee Zellweger got when she apparently “got fat” for Bridget Jones. I admit it, I am too quick to praise Clooney.Six packs are all too common among actors, even when playing normal people. Remember Matt Damon in Mr Ripley. I’d argue that nobody had a stomach like that in the 1950s apart from professional bodybuilders and athletes. He was supposed to be a lavatory attendant! And yet he looked like . . . a Hollywood actor. Now that’s vain, vain, vain.

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