Clever, tense and gripping - it's going to be hard to review Traitor without spoiling any of the story for you. But what you get is an engaing story line to acompany your action.
This film is basically an espionage spy thriller. Don Cheadle is excellent in the lead role as Samir, a pious man who's deep undercover. The thing is, just how deep is he? Is he a double agent? Has he been turned by the other side? All is revealed but for a large part of the film you're kept guessing. And you will REALLY be left guessing as events unfold.
He is a bomb maker. An expert mixed up with a group of jihadists. He is tasked with some very important missions and gradually works his way up the chain. The bigger the missions he completes, the more trust is placed in him until he is ordered to carry out a major attack on American soil. All the while, he is being hunted by Guy Pearce - a tenacious FBI agent who's hot on his heels.
The acting is brilliant throughout and the story is very clever, with good twists and turns. It's in depth too, and we get a good feel for the characters involved, who they are, their history and what makes them tick (no bomb pun intended).
The film is truly and international affair in the sense that you're treated to lost of different locations and scenery. From Sudan to Yemen, from Paris to London, to Nova Scotia and Canada. This makes for a very big feel to the film and really ads to it, making each scene fresh and exciting.
All in all, I really enjoyed this film and thought about giving it 5 stars - in the end I went with 4 - but it is excellent. I thoroughly recommend this if you want an film to engage the brain and get involved with. It also offers plenty of thrills, spills and action too. I'd give this film 8.5 out of 10 overall.
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This film is likely to disappoint as an action film. It is too long and slow. In terms of action the pace only really picks up in the last half hour, and even then things are subdued.
Where it does deliver is with some intriguing characters and good acting, Don Cheadle who may or may not be deep undercover with the terrorists and Guy Pearce as a philosophical FBI man. Throughout all the main characters are rounded and sympathetic to some degree.
The slow pace of the film suggests a less conventional plot than what we eventually get, and there is one really good twist that had me laughing out loud, possibly the input of Steve Martin who had a hand in the story.
There is a lot of international footage and striking photography, particularly the helicopter shots, overall the film looks tremendous. It is also impressively even handed for an American film, there are no pantomime baddies here.
Overall I found the film intriguing, but the rest of my family gave up on watching it, put off by the slow pace. The ambiguity of the characters, also made it less involving than it might have been. I watched this the same day as the rather similar Syriana [DVD]   and thought that this was actually the better of the two films, and something that I might watch again.
The modern world is pulling at its own stitches -- religious differences, political conflicts, and crisscrossing loyalties. So it's an appropriate time for a movie like "Traitor," a brilliantly acted and morally murky tale that was written (weirdly enough) by Steve Martin, but which is also held back by its twisty narrative and a narrative that sounds better in theory than in practice.
Sudanese Samir Horn (Cheadle) was born in Sudan, but after his father was killed in a terrorist attack he was brought to the United States and eventually became a part of the army -- a specialist who infiltrates terrorist organizations. But it seems his loyalties are no longer to the US army -- he's become entangled in a group of terrorists and imprisoned in Yemen. And, of course, his special skills and knowledge come in quite handy when it comes to terrorist plots.
But something is not quite right in this equation. A pair of FBI agents, Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce) and Max Archer (Neal McDonough), are sent after Samir.... but soon discover that his loyalties are not so easily identified. Just who is he a traitor to? At the same time, a plot is being put into effect that would kill countless people on Thanksgiving Day, and Samir seems to be involved...
"Traitor" is pretty clearly a movie meant to make you very, very uncomfortable, especially since it does some heavy delving into Muslim beliefs, divisions of loyalty, and the corruptions of text and belief that drive fanatical extremists to kill others. It gets too slanted at times -- the Muslim agent is portrayed as far more devout in his faith than the Christian one -- but it's a powerful piece of work, and a sympathetic look at the people torn between their personal beliefs and outside forces.
Director Jeffrey Nachmanoff handles this in a more intelligent manner than your average action thriller, allowing the plot to seep and unfold gradually, and throwing new kinks into the storyline along the way. The violence is genuinely harrowing, and the script is pretty solid. The problem is that the complexity itself turns into confusing knots, and the ending falls rather flat compared to the tense, sleek movie that precedes it. I was left thinking, "... that's it? That's what happens?"
Cheadle is, quite simply, one of Hollywood's most underrated actors -- and he gives a quietly compelling, intensely powerful performance as Samir, able to convey all the division and confusion that his character feels. Pearce is a good if slightly less nuanced counterpart, far more conventional in his thoughts and approaches, but who learns a certain appreciation for Cheadle's character and the knowledge that the truth is not simple or straightforward. Assuming you can find "the truth" at all, rather than someone's personal approach.
"Traitor" leaves you feeling confused but exhilarated, and tackles the near-impossible questions of modern Islam and some of its fanatical followers. An intelligent movie, if a flawed one.
on 7 March 2009
In the post-9/11 climate it is inevitable that film such as this one will be made. Don Cheadle stars as Samir an undercover agent who is caught-up when the terrorist cell he is infiltrating is smashed by over-zealous FBI agents. Samir is subsequently hung out to dry by the FBI who have discovered that his father was a convicted terrorist and become convinced that Samir is following in his father's footsteps. Traitor is a tightly-woven labyrinthine thriller, and Cheadle excels as a man whose motives are shadowy and of whose innocence you can never quite be certain. Guy Pearce is also good as FBI Special agent Roy Clayton, constantly having to restrain his over-eager partner whilst representing America's still unwavering belief in itself and its duty to protect its interests no matter what might be behind them.
In the interest of avoiding spoilers, let me just say about the plot that it's of a fairly familiar kind in the thriller genre: there's a terrorist plot to wreak havoc on US soil on a major national holiday. Can that plot be discovered and disaster averted? It's well worked out, with plenty of twists and with location work on three continents, and with Don Cheadle as Samir Horn doing a fine job as a rather Hamlet-like character, spiritually sensitive, full of moral seriousness, and weighed down by thinking a lot (too much?) about kinds of action that seem to him both obligatory and detestable. Cheadle has a great face for presenting such a character in the movies -- soulful, heavy-looking for all its leanness, a face that has supped full of horrors and that effortlessly expresses the burden of complicated moral consciousness. It's a very good performance. As his antagonist, Guy Pearce's FBI agent Roy Clayton shares some of that quality, although in his case we recognize it more by contrast with his fellow agent Max Archer, played by Neal McDonough. Samir's friend Omar (Said Taghmaoui) is the parallel character to Archer, so it's clear how symmetrically the movie is structured. There's much more to say about the plot and other characters that I won't go into so that, if you're interested, you can savor the movie's suspense.
I found the movie troubling, and perhaps in an interesting way. For one thing, it goes out of its way to humanize people who engage in terrorism and killing. This isn't to say that it excuses them, but these characters are not faceless horrors: they can be quite sympathetic and they can articulate reasons for what they're undertaking that require reasoned responses, and perhaps other kind of responses too. They are also conflicted in a fairly familiar way that can be summed up thus: my religion seems to require that I do not kill and yet I have obligations to kill, it seems, that are not unrelated to my religious beliefs. That kind of moral or spiritual conflict is presented as understandable within both Islamic and Christian contexts, and in Samir we have a devout Muslim and in agent Clayton a confessed Christian who are aware of such conflicts both within themselves and in others. So again, we see an element of symmetry in the disposition of the characters. All of that, however convenient for thematic purposes, is not what I find troubling: rather, the source of my uneasiness is the movie's assumption that that kind of conflict manifests itself in Muslim characters in pretty much the same way that it is articulated in what we might call "Western" terms. Perhaps I'm needlessly troubled -- after all, Samir is a Somali-born Muslim who has spent most of his life in the United States, but when he talks to other, non-American, Muslims, they seem to know what he's talking about. The result, I think, is to efface cultural and historical differences that might make Christians and Muslims see their internal conflicts of conscience rather differently but which might be difficult to make comprehensible in a "mainstream" film. So the generally "Western" terms are the ones that the conflicts get couched in, and the result is, I think, that that decision allows the viewer a rather cheap sympathy with spiritually sincere people who contemplate and carry out horrible acts. I call it "cheap" because it seems to offer such sympathy as "understanding" when it seems to me doubtful, from what the movie presents of Islamic culture, that we have enough information to base understanding on. All of this is not to impugn the motives of the film-makers or the actors; the refusal to make cartoon villains of Muslims is surely a step in the right direction, even though I doubt that it goes (or CAN go, in a movie that aims to entertain) far enough.
The movie-makers, however, are not content to have no clear-cut villains. In a fairly conventional move, we have characters who are willing to put serious people in harm's way while obviously keeping themselves well out of it and whose religious convictions are, shall we say, more flexible than those of the characters we come to care about. Some readers of these comments might not be as bothered as I was by what is represented of the Islamic world and might well know more than I do about it. I recommend that you watch the movie -- it's a thriller, but it's soulful, and Don Cheadle and his fellow-actors do good work.
TRAITOR is a crime/drama/thriller starring the talented, Oscar-nominated Don Cheadle, (CRASH), in the title role as "the traitor," Samir Horn, of Chicago, a devout American Muslim and former US army explosives expert who has been linked to a string of international terrorist bombings. The production moves around a lot, to Washington D.C., Chicago, of course, France, but most of the action is concentrated in the Middle East.
The picture is based on a story by the brilliant comic actor Steve Martin; the script was written by, and directed by, Jeffrey Nachmanoff, (THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW). I don't think I can be accused of giving the plot away if I say it concerns the undercover doings of Cheadle's character, Horn. Guy Pearce, (LA CONFIDENTIAL), plays Roy Clayton, and Jeff Daniels, (DUMB AND DUMBER), Carter, intelligence figures with whom Horn apparently interacts. Cheadle does strong work, and seems to be particularly good at suffering in silence.
But, you know, the great SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD, an epochal film based upon British spymaster John LeCarre's best-selling novel of the same name, starring the great Welsh actor Richard Burton as cold war spy Alec Leamas, and directed by Martin Ritt, came out in 1965. LeCarre, had, of course, actually been a British spy, in the field, and was familiar with the secrets and craft of the trade. The film, as the novel upon which it was based, explained all about how Leamas had to go to jail in order to go back into the active spy business undercover. Now we have TRAITOR. Steve Martin knows no equal as a comic actor, but I doubt he knows much first-hand about the spy business. I know very little about Nachmanoff, but somehow doubt he is grounded in the spy business. And sorry folks, but TRAITOR plays like a blurred 15th generation copy of THE SPY. Is it too much to ask that, somewhere in the making of a spy picture, there should be someone who actually knows something about spying?
on 22 March 2013
This is quite and enjoyable watch for a Friday night in with a bottle of wine and maybe worth seeing twice. There is nothing here to merit the expense of Blu-ray: no high def sound or specially good visuals like Mongol. So if it sounds like your kind of film get the DVD and save a few quid, if undecided just rent it. But it is worth watching.
on 24 February 2013
A movie about the war on terror that nearly does it...nearly in that it nearly pulls off an attempt to show why the terror attacks take place, what these men are like, what they are about....but it fails at the last hurdle where the script for the top 2 terror men turns wooden and cardboard-like. This is a shame because (having now watched the typical jingoistic stuff out of hollywood) a film that tries to explain motivation is a welcome tack. The FBI agent played confidently by Guy Pearce is sympathetic but perhaps unbelievable. Nevertheless a very good movie which at least shows what its like to be caught between two loyalties and what the consequences can be. Cheadle is excellent as usual.
It's an unusual film, this one, and difficult to categorise. It should fit into the spy/conspiracy thriller genre but it doesn't; there are few set piece action sequences and it doesn't build to an all-loose-end-tidied-up explosive climax. What we get is a clever, complex, unpredictable and thought provoking take on the current American obsession with Islam extremism; there's enough action to maintain the suspense and to keep the story rolling along at a satisfying pace but it is not the film's raison d'être. An excellently cast, written & directed film, it is definitely one we'll watch again.
on 24 September 2015
9/11 ? Wonder if all the security agencies have watched this? Scarey and plausable scenario, how do you deal with people who are prepared to die? Excellent cast, well shot, great movie. Just one question I thought the FBI only dealt with security in USA and CIA overseas? Don Cheadle by far his best performance that I've seen so far ( thank goodness wipes out the dreadful Oceans 11)