Movie Review by Samuel Taradash
Starring: Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Jeff Daniels, Neal McDonough, Archie Panjabi
Director: Jeffrey Nachmanoff
TRAITOR is a measured, thoughtful, thriller that both gives and asks more than an average spy movie. Samir Horn (Don Cheadle) is a man that has been connected him to both the US Army and to terrorist groups preparing to strike against the US. Omar (Saïd Taghmaoui) is the loyal soldier of faith who offers Samir a connection to a powerful Islamist militant group. FBI agent Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce) must try to prevent their plot to strike within the heart of American society. Roy is sharp, observant, and committed. Samir is methodical, disciplined, and willing to make painful choices. For Samir, the dilemma is how to remain loyal to a faith that demands both submission and unwavering duty. Everyone has an idea of how he will best serve the greatest good. But as an intelligent man of both faith and action, the question of who can be trusted and who must be sacrificed falls most heavily on Samir. But neither he nor Roy knows how far a willingness to sacrifice must be taken, or to what extremes one must go in the name of duty.
This film raises some difficult and interesting questions. Why, for example, is it necessary to point out that Samir is both a Muslim and an American? It’s not a contradiction for Roy to be an American and a Baptist Christian, and it is these assumptions of duality, compatibility, loyalty and deception that complicate their characters. Swiss-educated Omar admits that he dreams in English, lamenting that he doesn’t even feel at home speaking his native language. How can a person live when their nation expects one thing, but their religion demands another? What can be done for people who are aliens in their own lands? These are 21st century realities for people whose work, faiths and lives compel them across borders, causing identity and nationality to lose their firm definitions.
Both Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce bring differing portrayals of intelligence and devotion to the film, with Pearce delivering a cerebral strength to what could have been a thin retread of Tommy Lee Jones from THE FUGITIVE. And Cheadle’s performance as a faithful Muslim who is painfully aware of his actions and his responsibilities is as tightly constructed as a Swiss watch. He never lets us forget that he knows exactly what he’s doing, even as he discovers what it costs.
TRAITOR is lean and purposeful, with deliberate, well-timed pacing. Almost every shot reveals something to advance the story, and no scene, no effect is wasted. From the sun-baked tans of Yemen to the cold, faded blues and grays of Chicago, the visuals reinforce the story, increasing the tension as it builds to its climax.
Far more intelligent than VANTAGE POINT, EAGLE EYE, or even BOURNE, this film asks what can a person be devoted to, and who is most vulnerable to an act of betrayal. The performances are powerful, with a sense of depth that lingers well past the closing credits.