The Tangled Web of Syriana

by Philip Dhingra

Below is a diagram of the plot and relationships in the 2005 film Syriana. Syriana is a complex espionage thriller involving government corruption, oil, and international terrorism. The events in the film are fictional, but only barely so. By understanding this film in its entirety, one can get a better grasp on the complexity of conflicts in the Middle East.

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Spoiler warning: Plot and ending details follow.


About the movie

Stephen Gaghan, who won an Oscar for best screenplay for Traffic, makes his directorial debut with Syriana, an espionage thriller set in the Middle East. George Clooney stars as Bob Barnes, a longtime CIA agent preparing to slow down his life and spend more time with his teenage son. But his last secret mission, getting rid of Prince Nasir, turns out to be more complicated than he imagined, placing him in the middle of a dangerous conspiracy involving government corruption, oil, and international terrorism.

According to Rotten Tomatoes the film is ambitious, complicated, intellectual, and demanding of its audience. Syriana is both a gripping geopolitical thriller and wake-up call to the complacent.

What is a "hyperlink movie?"

In his review of Syriana, Roger Ebert refers to Syriana as a "Hyperlink movie":

A recent blog item coined a term like "hyperlink movie" to describe plots like this. (I would quote the exact term, but irony of ironies, I've lost the link.) The term describes movies in which the characters inhabit separate stories, but we gradually discover how those in one story are connected to those in another.
Rogert Ebert later found the link and gives credit to Alissa Quart, in Film Comment, who had this to say about Happy Endings:
Information, character and action co-exist without hierarchy. And we are always one click away from a new life, a new story, and new meaning, all equally captivating but no better or worse than what we have just left behind.
But Ebert wasn't the only the one thinking along these lines. David Denby had this to say in the New Yorker:
[Gagan]'s a Web-era filmmaker—distance is just a form of connection. A captain of industry smiles, and, half a globe away, a hundred people lose their jobs; a C.I.A. technician pushes a button in Washington, and an Arab prince is taken out by a missile in the desert.

About this project

The following tools were used:

This is what I used for references: This project was first published on July 30th, 2006 by Philip Dhingra. Visit my my blog to get in touch with me.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

Screen captures from the film and the promotional poster are copyright Warner Bros.

keywords: infoviz, information visualization, graph, chart