Director: Jeffrey Nachmanoff
Cast: Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Jeff Daniels,
Neal McDonough, Archie Panjabi, Alyy Kahn, Said Taghmaoui
1 hr 54 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: M18 (Mature Theme)
Official Website: http://www.traitor-themovie.com/
Opening Day: 30 April 2009
Horn (Don Cheadle), a devout American Muslim, and a former
U.S. Army Special Forces expert in explosives, has been mysteriously
showing up on the FBI's radar for being in the area of terrorist
bombings. FBI agent Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce) heads up a task
force investigation to link Horn to these bombings. Clayton
is able to question Horn after he was arrested in Yemen for
attempting to sell explosives to an Islamic terrorist group.
The terrorists break out of prison and take Horn with them.
With the help of Max Archer (Neal McDonough), Clayton is able
to link Horn to a bombing of an American Consulate in Nice,
and a failed police raid to capture his top terrorist contact
in London. Clayton has been pursuing Horn around the world
and has tracked him to the United States. Clayton must capture
Horn before he strikes his next target.
One of the most surprising things about this above-par, post-9/11 international thriller is its source, based as it is on a story by funny-man Steve Martin. The alarm bells don’t stop ringing when you consider that his choice of screenwriter and director is Jeffrey Nachmanoff, scribe of sci-fi pot-boiler The Day After Tomorrow. Yet against all odds, Traitor is an absorbing and provocative attempt to unravel some of the cultural and political confusion that has got us in the mess we’re in today.
You can see why the actors were attracted to the material in “Traitor.” It’s “Deep Cover” crossed with “The Fugitive,” and explores the subject of Islamic radicalism. Touchy stuff, to be sure, and there are moments in the movie that sent chills through the crowd. The problem is that, as the “‘Deep Cover’ meets ‘The Fugitive’” bit suggests, you’ve already seen this movie many times before. The only difference between “Traitor” and its predecessors is that the other movies spent more time in focus. They also didn’t spend so much time trying to ramp up the tension during scenes where nothing is happening.
As a child living in Sudan, Samir Horn (Don Cheadle) was a first-hand witness to his father's untimely death in a car bombing. Thirty years later, he makes a living selling explosives—an illegal operation that gets him caught and sent to an unforgiving Yemen prison. Following a successful prison break, Samir is welcomed into fellow inmate Omar's (Said Taghmaoui) faction of Muslim extremists. As they cross the globe, ultimately ending up in the U.S. where Samir is to lead a countrywide terrorist attack, FBI agents Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce) and Max Archer (Neal McDonough) desperately try to track them down before it's too late.
It is difficult to speak in clear terms about "Traitor" because so much of the film relies on a key plot turn uncovered midway through. Without giving this twist away—or, for that matter, another twist that arrives in the third act—it should be said that the casting of a star of Don Cheadle's caliber serves only to make the central revelation instantly predictable. The construction of the screenplay by Jeffrey Nachmanoff is flawed in more ways than one, acting as a popcorn-munching suspenser when it should have gotten rid of all its audience-deceiving flourishes and concentrated on the root of the story being told. The tough questions the picture poses are relevant, most notably whether or not those responsible for the deaths of innocent people, no matter the reason, are really any better than those we see as terrorists, but the film backtracks in the third act and attempts to explain away and justify the seamier actions of the characters. The material is simply not strong enough to support these mixed messages.
Interestingly enough, the film raises many of the issues that emerged after 9-11: from the racial profiling of Middle Eastern students to the physically brutal interrogation of captured terror suspects – significantly, it is Pearce who is the voice of reason. Tension builds confidently toward an impressive showdown that, while predestined, plays out most unexpectedly. Traitor, like its namesake, is a tricky film. To varying degrees, none of the players are what they seem and it is this uncertainty that gives the story its strength. One that defies assumptions to help explain another side of the treacherous world in which we live.
(A taut, modern thriller with just enough political concerns to give it depth and meaning)
Review by Lokman B S