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Traitor
DVD disk
01.28.2009 By: Mathew Plale
Traitor order
Director:
Jeffrey Nachmanoff

Actors:
Don Cheadle
Guy Pearce
Jeff Daniels

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
An undercover agent (Cheadle) infiltrates a terrorist group, helping to plot devastating acts and being chase across the globe by the FBI.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Traitor is a spy thriller that—if not lacking them completely—goes light on the tricks the Bourne trilogy has trained us to expect in such a movie. The colors aren’t washed out, the camera is unobtrusive, and there might be fewer cuts in the entire movie than in one Jason Bourne chase sequence.

Don Cheadle stars as Samir Horn, an ex-Special Ops agent so deep undercover that only one man, an intelligence contractor named Carter (Jeff Daniels), knows of his mission. Samir is arrested in Yemen whilst dealing arms to respected Islamic terrorist Omar (Saïd Taghmaoui). Behind bars, Samir, a devout Muslim, develops a bond with Omar, who takes Samir along when his men orchestrate a prison break.

The climax comes in the terrorist group’s plot to place 50 suicide bombers on 50 buses across America on Thanksgiving. But it’s not suspenseful. Not because we expect the protagonist to save the day at the 11th hour, but because there’s much more here for the audience to chew on than your average thriller. Screenwriter/director Jeffrey Nachmanoff, who co-wrote the story with Steve Martin (yep, that one), has written such a compelling lead character that it’s to the action’s fault; we’re more interested in how Samir will feel and react if the buses explode than we are in when or if they even will.

But as refreshing as Nachmanoff’s sophomore feature is (in addition to Cheadle’s brave performance, the character of Omar is portrayed not as a caricature, but a human whose purpose is in stone), and as careful as it is not to fill itself with genre conventions, maybe it could have used a few. How about a more daring ending? Or some of the thrills that we’re seeing the movie for?

Some will argue that that’s not what Traitor sets out to do, and I’d partially agree. One of the better aspects of the movie is the amount of focus put on what makes a guy a “good guy,” and at what point he stops being that “good guy.” But with so much globetrotting (Yemen to France to the U.S., and so on), FBI (Guy Pearce) interference, and casualties in between, it’s hard not to think that this just isn’t the movie we signed up for.
THE EXTRAS
Audio Commentary featuring Director Jeffrey Nachmanoff and Actor Don Cheadle: This is a solid track, with Nachmanoff and Cheadle sharing production stories and laughs throughout.

Featurettes (9:54): Action! The Stunts and Special Effects of Traitor (4:40) offers a brief, energized behind-the-scenes look at the stunts, while International Espionage: An In-Depth Look at Traitor’s Exotic Locations (5:14) is just as self-explanatory, with trips to Morocco, France, and more.

Trailers and Previews.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
I'm torn on Traitor. On one hand, the lead character are compelling and the performances are good (Cheadle especially). On the other, there's not nearly as much suspense as one would expect from such a movie. Potential renters/buyers should also take note on the aspect ratio, which differs from the theatrical presentation.
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