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Review: Traitor

Traitor
08.29.2008
7 10

Plot: Samir Horn (Don Cheadle), a former special forces operative & devout Muslim, becomes part of a terrorist cell while serving time for selling arms in Yemen. Upon his escape, his actions bring him to the attention of the F.B.I- in particular, straight arrow agent Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce).

Review: TRAITOR is a bit of a late summer surprise for me, particularly welcome due to the fact that there's absolutely nothing opening in the next few weeks that looks like it would be worth schlepping to the theater and paying ten bucks to see. While it's not quite "this year's BOURNE ULTIMATUM" as some ads are touting it- it's certainly an enjoyable spy thriller.


Cheadle is particularly good in this film. His character is a bit tricky to handle- due to the fact that at points he comes off as fairly despicable. Throughout the film, he seems to do a lot of bad things, and it's a tribute to Cheadle's skill as a performer that no matter what, we never completely loose sympathy for him. Towards the end of the film, there's a big reveal that I won't spoil here (although it's in the trailer) that radically changes our perspective of the character. With another actor playing the role, the big reveal would have been painfully obvious, but Cheadle keeps us guessing throughout as to what his true motivations are.

I also liked Guy Pearce as the agent tracking Cheadle- although of the two his role is far less juicy. While his work in TRAITOR doesn't compare to his performances in films like L.A CONFIDENTIAL, MEMENTO, or THE POPOSITION (the best western since UNFORGIVEN as far as I'm concerned), he's nonetheless rock solid in a role that could have been really bland in the hands of a less charismatic actor.

Strange enough, TRAITOR is the brainchild of none other than Steve Martin (yes folks- THAT Steve Martin). Despite being known primarily for his comedy, Martin is widely acknowledged as one of the smartest men in Hollywood, and regularly contributes to THE NEW YORKER- and the guy knows his politics. The terrorists in TRAITOR are never demonized- but instead are portrayed as all too human, which I find makes them particularly frightening. As far as I'm concerned, nothing is scarier than a rational adversary that truly believes in what they're doing.


My only real problem with TRAITOR is that at times it feels a little ho-hum. Obviously the film is fairly low-budget, and at times it almost plays out like a slick cable movie- but this is really a fairly minor problem. The storyline and the performances more than make up for the film's technical shortcomings. Also- the film is being sold as an action thriller, but it's nothing of the sort. It's more like SYRIANNA than THE BOURNE IDENTITY, so don't go in expecting wall to wall action. There are a few quick action scenes (including a nifty hand to hand fight for Cheadle early in the film), but nothing huge, as big sprawling action scenes would have really been out of tone with the rest of the film.

Overall, TRAITOR is a nifty little spy flick, and definitely worth catching- particularly if you enjoy more earthbound entries into the genre like THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD & THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM. While it may not be the most dynamic film to come out in the last few months- I quite enjoyed it, and would easily recommend it to anyone looking for a smart thriller.

Grade: 7.5/10

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Source: JoBlo.com

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