2008 - United States - 114 minutes
Director - Jeffrey Nachmanoff
Writer - Jeffrey Nachmanoff from a story by Steve Martin
Internet Movie Database User Rating - 7.2/10 - Link to IMDb
My Rating - 5 of 5 Stars

Most spy/espionage/terrorist films are so unrealistic as to be almost laughable albeit entertaining. The good guys are always totally good, and the bad guys are always totally bad, and no matter how much physical contact they have, they never show even as much as a bruise in the next scene. Traitor is not your typical film of this genre. The good guys are not all good, the bad guys are not all bad, and they bruise and bleed as do normal men.

The film begins with a young Samir Horn witnessing the bombing death of his father. It is never known why his father was murdered but one assumes the motive was either political or religious. Time has passed and Samir has become a black market dealer in the Middle East. He is arrested and imprisoned with several members of a terrorist group. They escape, and Samir joins the group. Because he has lived in the United States for most of his life and speaks with no accent, he is chosen to be sent to the US to help organize a massive terrorist attack using suicide bombers - members of sleeper cells who have been embedded in the country for many years. Samir has come to the attention of the FBI, and the security community is attempting to track his movements.

Viewers of Traitor are treated to a realistic and insightful look into the actions and personalities of all of the participants in this international conspiracy. One of the elements of this film that impressed me is that there are no duplicitous characters lurking in the background. There are spies that have worked themselves into all the organizations, but none is one of those cookie-cutter characters that show up so often in films of this ilk - the megalomaniac who performs acts of treachery due to his overblown opinion of himself.

The superior acting and excellent script make Traitor a film to be thoroughly enjoyed and pondered. You actually have to think about the characters’ motives and actions in order to gain the full benefit of viewing.

Don Cheadle as Samir the traitor, and Guy Pearce as the FBI agent searching for Samir are needless-to-say, first-rate in their portrays of two strong-willed and intelligent men. These two actors never give the audience less than sublime entertainment in any of their performances, and the ones in Traitor are no exceptions. They are mightily supported by a number of other excellent actors. Saïd Taghmaoui plays Omar who is Samir’s contact man amongst the terrorists. He shows us a man who would generally be painted as totally evil who is actually just a man dedicated to a cause in which he believes. There is also a rewarding understated performance by Neal McDonough as the assistant FBI agent. McDonough has lately fallen into the trap of playing a total nutcase hiding behind a handsome face and those extraordinarily piercing eyes. He is a, somewhat, loose cannon in this film, but under control. It is a very good part for him.

It seems more reasonable to classify Traitor as an exciting drama rather than an action flick. There is action, and the climatic scenes bring you to the edge of your seat - one a rewarding dose of very black humor. But it is the drama and insight into the complex characters that make Traitor a highly rewarding film.

Neil Turner
December 27, 2008