Saturday, December 03, 2005

We saw Syriana last night. Good movie, though it was about as narratively far from its source material, Robert Baer's CIA memoir See No Evil, as one could possibly imagine. In terms of its muddy morality, the film reminded me of those movies they made thirty years ago in which there was no real protagonist, at least not in any sense of having a character to cheer for. George Clooney's CIA agent probably comes the closest, but anybody who dispenses death as casually as does his Bob Barnes (the fictional surrogate for Baer, who retired from the intelligence service in 1997) can't really be viewed as heroic in a movie like this, where the viewer has to invest a certain level of thought and discernment. Stripped of the geopolitics, Barnes is essentially a government hit man: we see him take out an Iranian arms trader in the opening minutes of the film, and later he's tasked to kill a reformist Arab prince whose views are deemed harmful to American interests. He fails to do so, but that's a far cry from a principled refusal to try.

The rest of the film is populated with Texas oil men, government functionaries, political fixers, ambitious young guys on the make, and the poor bastards who actually do the work of petroleum production that makes fortunes thousands of miles away. Among other luminaries, the cast includes Chris Cooper, as the owner of a mid-sized Texas-based energy company that's about to hit the big time through a merger, and William Hurt, as a former CIA colleague of Barnes who's retired into a lucrative consultancy. But watching Cooper in particular, I started to think of how art can, and maybe should, imitate life...

Is that freakin' creepy or what? Same dead eyes, same slimy hair. But at least Cooper presumably can get out of character, so to speak.

So I now think we should cast the entire gang of ideologues, crooks and well-dressed looters currently running the country. Sticking with Syriana, I think William Hurt could play a damn fine Karl Rove... if he gained 30 pounds of so, anyway. I'll not put up the side-by-side here because, well, I don't really want to look at Rove, unless it's seeing him in an orange jumpsuit or head-to-toe denim, in hand and leg restraints. Maybe Nick Nolte as Rumsfeld? Alfre Woodard as Condeliesalot Rice? James Cromwell as Radical Cleric James Dobson is a "slam dunk"... and speaking of which, how about Chazz Palminteri as George Tenet (possibly portrayed only in flashback)?

But I can't figure out who in Hollywood, if anybody, has the sheer malevolance to portray Citizen Dick Cheney. Richard Dreyfuss played a cartoonishly evil Republican in either "Dave" or "The American President"--after countless half-viewings on TNT and TBS, those two flicks kind of run together for me--but his heart didn't seem to be in it.

Any ideas, for any of the remaining uncasted miscreants?

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