Traitor Movie Review

Traitor Movie Review

At first glance, on paper (and in the trailer), the Don Cheadle vehicle Traitor looks tremendously like a cheap, second grade version of any one of the Bourne movies.

The whole “good guy turns on his bosses and goes on the run”–type of film has been done a lot in recent years: the three Bourne films, the new stream of James Bond movies, and in the upcoming Body of Lies. Some have even dubbed Traitor to be a “Wesley Snipes movie not starring Wesley Snipes”. This is why it is so surprising to walk into the theater expecting a B-movie from a B level studio (Overture), and get such a terrific and suspenseful two hour thriller.

When Don Cheadle is not playing second fiddle to George Clooney and Brad Pitt, he seems to give great performances in quality films that go almost totally unnoticed by moviegoers and award-givers alike (Reign Over Me, Talk To Me, Crash, Traffic, Boogie Nights). And Traitor looks to continue this trend – seeing Mr. Cheadle give an amazing exhibition of talent, with a great story filled to the brim with good plot twists and an astounding array of supporting characters.

Traitor is best consumed going in blindly – the more you know about the plot, the less you’ll relate to the characters’ confusion and chaotic, albeit still sensible, behavior. Don Cheadle plays Samir Horn, a Muslim man living in Sudan who may or may not be a terrorist. Cheadle plays the character so perfectly; it seems at times that he doesn’t even know what side he’s on. He carries the entire story quite well, based on the audience not knowing when to root for him or despise him. Guy Pearce holds his own though, playing an FBI agent hot on the trail of Samir throughout most of the movie. Momentarily, it looks to be the average cop role on the hunt, but Pearce infuses his character with a humanity.

The real strength of the movie seems to be the script, though – it delves much, much deeper into the mind of these Muslim extremists than any other movie with the similar topic has before, and also manages to keep your attention throughout. Other movies may have attempted to sympathize with this demographic (like Rendition or Lions for Lambs) but they just couldn’t do it in a way that mesmerizes as well as informs. Traitor doesn’t rely much on gunplay or chases through exotic locations to ratchet the suspense up; it manages to do that merely by having fully fleshed-out characters instead of stereotypes. However, one gunshot almost turns the entire movie on its head; the whole movie definitely gets a lot more interesting at that point, a point that has the FBI and the sect giving almost the exact same reasons for what they do, trying to explain just how similar they really are. It’s a tactic also used last year in The Kingdom, but here it doesn’t come off as heavy-handed and blunt – it’s actually eye-opening and thought-provoking.

One thing that irked me throughout was the way these Muslim extremists just accepted Samir so quickly into their midst, seeing as how he looks and sounds nothing like them. When they speak English, it’s heavily accented and kind of broken; Samir though sounds like he just stepped off a plane from New York. It’s explained to the audience with a couple lines of dialogue (“He’s with me”). But this is just nit-picking, since Traitor has everything you can want in a this kind of thriller film – great characters, great performances, great story-telling, with a pinch of great action and a few really great plot twists. Go see it already.

4 / 5 stars