Directed by: Jeffrey Nachmanoff
Premise: An FBI agent (Guy Pearce) investigates a possible terrorism plot that seems to lead to former U.S. Special Operations officer Samir (Don Cheadle). As more of the terrorist plot is exposed, Samir’s true allegiance comes into question.
What Works: Traitor is a thoughtful thriller that mixes political intrigue with the personal story of a man trying to maintain his integrity and the integrity of his religious faith. Don Cheadle gives a terrific performance as Samir and he captures the man’s struggle to reconcile his beliefs with the world around him. The other terrific performance in the film is Said Taghmaoui as Omar, a terrorist who initiates Samir into the underground world of jihadists. It’s a nuanced performance that does not give itself over to the shrieking anti-Western stereotype. Omar fancies himself a revolutionary and the film allows him and others to elucidate their ideology while at the same time punching holes in it and exposing how fraudulent and bankrupt that ideology is. The relationship between Samir and Omar is humanizing and ultimately heartbreaking as the moral problems and religious contradictions of a life of terrorism ultimately come to a crisis point.
What Doesn’t: The credibility of Traitor is strained in parts where coincidence rules too much, as characters show up conveniently and make large leaps of logic. It’s not too distracting but it is noticeable.
DVD extras: Commentary track, featurettes.
Bottom Line: Traitor is one of the better war-on-terror films that has been released since September 11th. The film has its flaws but the progressive and textured portrayal of a Muslim is impressive and the suspense is well done.
Episode: #226 (February 8, 2009)