Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you want to make an interesting, engaging spy film that will impress your 12 year-old self, keep Robert Redford and George Clooney the hell away from it. As mentioned above, Redford spends all of Spy Game just TALKING TO PEOPLE! He directs The Good Shepherd, which is worse than Spy Game, because, although both films are crazy-boring, Spy Game is only boring for like two hours, The Good Shepherd for almost three. The tale of The Good Shepherd spans decades, following Edward (Matt Damon) as he rises through the ranks from Yale to the CIA, eventually watching his own son grow to follow in his footsteps. The only interesting part is…nothing. This whole film makes espionage look as boring as every other profession. The fact that it’s largely a period piece makes it all the more unbearable. I’m twitching just thinking about it.
So begins the reign of Clooney as the man that stole the thunder from spies everywhere. He relegates spies to the realm of claims adjusters and office managers, drones that exercise no autonomy and certainly don’t shoot pistols with two hands like in John Woo movies.
Syriana revolves around political and financial exploits in the Middle East, largely focusing on Clooney’s character, a CIA agent tasked with the assassination of a Prince. The entire film serves to reconcile, corporate, national, and financial interests. When the film isn’t following the bureaucracy of the CIA, it’s following around Matt Damon, an energy analyst for a large petroleum company. Seriously. It’s that boring.
The movie begins with Tobey Maguire’s corpse being fished out of a river and only gets worse from there. Though there’s no “spy” here to speak of, it’s a spy movie in that it involves George Clooney (CLOONEY!) trying to infiltrate both American and German political and military circles to solve the mystery behind the murders. The only interesting part of the film is a Jewish pawn shop owner who had his legs amputated during the holocaust. Everything else blows.