Film Reviews

TRAITOR

By • Aug 27th, 2008 •

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An intelligent thriller with twists.

I like Muslim countries and Muslims. I have traveled to many Muslim countries in Africa. I have found that Muslims actually live their religion. There are no Sunday Christians or High Holy Day Jews among them. Of course, I have never met a Muslim terrorist or Fundamentalist Muslim, but the Muslims I have met have all been willing to discuss and talk about any subject with Americans. In Morocco, at a talk given by our Muslim tour director, he encouraged questions. Someone was rude enough to ask about the Prophet Mohammed’s child bride.

I spoke up: “I hope I never have to defend the Catholic Church’s centuries of horror called The Inquisition, the popes who had illegitimate children, or the sale of Indulgences to get into Heaven!”

TRAITOR is a mature, complicated thriller that may very well be a welcomed change for moviegoers sated with a diet of superheroes and comedies. Writer-director Jeffrey Nachmanoff does a swift, globe-trotting introduction to the complex story of FBI agents Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce) and his partner Max Archer (Neal McDonough) on the hunt for an American, Samir Horn (Don Cheadle), captured in Yemen as he was about to sell explosives to terrorists.

Samir declines their help to give up his contacts for freedom. While in a Yemen prison with another terrorist (Omar – played by Said Taghmaoui), he shows that he is a devout Muslim. An escape arranged by Omar brings Samir in contact with a well-funded terrorist network. Samir has the right credentials to be trusted; he was born in the Sudan, his father was assassinated, and he was trained by the U.S. military as an explosives expert.

Soon his handiwork is seen in Spain and France bombings. He’s even spotted on a surveillance camera walking away from the Normandy bombing. A coded message suggests that Omar’s group is preparing a big Thanksgiving attack in the U.S.

This is an interesting film in that Samir, and the group he is working with, are all deeply religious. Their convictions are well stated. Yet, as soon as Samir meets up with his secret contact, the story twists and turns in quite a satisfying manner.

You get caught up in the way the story unfolds. Cheadle is at the center, showing a complicated personality. Cheadle’s Samir must prove himself at every turn, and you believe he is torn by his beliefs versus his morals about killing innocent people in bombings.

At a STREET TRASH party in '87.  From left to right: unidentified party-goer, TRAITOR DP Jimmy Muro, FIR reviewer Victoria Alexander, Miriam Zucker, Frank Farel, FIR reviewer Nicole Potter, Mike Lackey (kneeling), FIR editor Roy Frumkes, Exec Producer Jim Muro Sr.

TRAITOR is involving, engaging, and intelligent. Cheadle, as star and producer, has not shied away from playing a Muslim, as risky as that might be in today’s political climate. The vast and varied locations show that the production wanted as much authenticity as possible.

In an interview with ‘Coming Soon’, Cheadle was asked about FIR’s friend, Jimmy Muro, who was Director of Photography on the film.

CS: Have you tried to bring some of the crews you’ve worked with as an actor to the movies you’ve produced and to the movie you’ll direct?

Cheadle: I’m going to see. We liked Jimmy [Muro] for this one. It seemed to be a good fit and Jimmy wanted to do it and we thought that was good, but I don’t have any particular marching orders when I do this Miles Davis thing. I’m going to see what’s up. I’m already using a different DP.

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