Kevin's Review: Traitor - Showing the World's Gripping Shades of Grey

August 27, 2008

Don Cheadle's character, Samir Horn, is a man conflicted. He's Middle-Eastern yet also a US citizen; he's a concerted Muslim but also a pragmatist; he helps to further terrorist goals but works for the CIA. So when Samir turns to his girlfriend at one point in Jeffrey Nachmanoff's directorial debut, Traitor, and says "the truth is complicated," he's definitely not kidding. This complexity, along with a rounded cast, a globe-trotting story and a peppering of smart action makes Traitor an entertaining espionage thriller that is not only uniquely smart, but timely. But while the film doesn't reach Bourne or Syriana heights, it's certainly a thought-provoking and cautionary tale about the many shades of grey that exist in the world.

Samir is a former US Special Operations officer that is loosely under the employ of the CIA by way of of the morally questionable Carter (Jeff Daniels). Samir is working in Yemen when he's thrown in jail following a raid of a terrorist group's compound. This is the first of only a few instances where the film's two plotlines intersect - FBI agent Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce) along with his partner Max Archer (Neal McDonough) show up to question Samir. Uncooperative, Samir keeps quiet, and stays in the Yemeni jail until he escapes with the help of the terrorist cell with which he worked, led by Omar (Saïd Taghmaoui of Vantage Point). The group resumes their nefarious plans in France when Clayton catches Samir's scent again. I don't want to give too much away, but it's safe to say that the veritable cat-and-mouse game continues throughout the film, crossing more continents with Clayton just a hair's-breadth behind.

Samir Horn fights Roy Clayton in a scene from Traitor.Traitor Review

If you can believe it, the idea for Traitor actually came from Steve Martin back in 2003, while he was doing Bringing Down the House (of all unrelated things). Nachmanoff, who also wrote the script for the apocalyptic adventure The Day After Tomorrow furthered the concept, eventually enlisting the help of Cheadle when the Academy Award-winning actor came on board as both lead and producer.

One of the most engrossing aspects of Traitor is that throughout much of the film, you never truly know where Samir's loyalties lie. Cheadle effectively rides the fence to an impressive degree, having his character actually commit terrorist acts, yet doing so with remorse following short behind. That inner conflict, however, doesn't stop him from furthering the next attack. At the same time, Samir checks in with his pseudo-CIA-handler, manifesting an air of underlying anti-terrorist intentions. Samir's character and his true loyalties will keep you guessing long after the film is over - a real credit to Cheadle's range as an actor.

Samir Horn and Carter covertly meet to discuss details in Traitor.Traitor Review

Writer and director, Nachmanoff, achieves a thrilling level of suspense and complexity in Traitor, as well. While Samir wages his battles both internally and externally, Nachmanoff gives us a composite look at U.S law enforcement by way of Clayton and Archer -- the latter being your typical beat-it-out-him hard-ass, with Clayton as a progressive and thinking lawman. Juxtaposed to these two is crafty CIA agent Carter, who portrays yet another face to the organizations protecting our country. On other side of the fence is the tepid solider, Omar, and the unabashed decision-maker, Fareed (Aly Khan of A Mighty Heart). Truly, Nachmanoff's Traitor contains more angles than a De Beers diamond. Well, a Zales diamond is probably more accurate. The film's form and cut is skilled, but the overall quality isn't totally flawless, especially in its finish. Regardless, Traitor is a thought-provoking film with a great cast that still shines.

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saw it last night. really enjoyed it. I know alot of people look at muslims and think that they all are evil for killing people. But the same can be said for most religions. Including christians. There are groups of extremists everywhere who take religion and twist it for their own visions. This movie was really good in that it showed you both sides.

Heckle0 on Aug 28, 2008


23 comments on speculative news about the Batman sequel, which wasn't news at all, but only one for this review. Does no one care abt this movie? I, for one, was quite interested, and still am. Hopefully it delivers.

Alfredo on Aug 28, 2008


This movie looks pretty awesome, I can't wait to see it.

Fatal Error on Aug 28, 2008


Don Cheadle is the man

James on Aug 28, 2008


Saw this movie last night, and i actually enjoyed it. I thought that some parts were a little too hurried or the transitions were fuzzy but overall the movie was very thought provoking and shows a different viewpoint on extremists and religion. The ending i thought was somewhat dull, but the atmosphere of the movie and Don Cheadle's emotional moments in the film are done really well. Its a pity how Batman stole the show and kept this movie in the shadows... Go see it!

Nikhil Hariharan on Sep 24, 2008

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