For a while, Traitor promises to be that film—if not a definitive comment on radical Islamic fundamentalism and how it’s been bolstered by the War on Terror, then the first useful one. Don Cheadle is Samir Horn, who watched his father die in a car bombing in Sudan and now supplies terrorists with the explosives necessary to shatter “the myth of American power.” Though it refuses insight into the reasons for Samir’s belief in terrorist aggression, the film maintains a refreshingly non-histrionic tone for much of its running time, even when it succumbs completely to “meanwhile at the Batcave” shorthand. Given the ripple-like bearing of terrorism, all the international hopscotching—from Yemen to London, Halifax to Chicago—is to be expected, but writer-director Jeffrey Nachmanoff keeps things interesting by paralleling moral impetus as well as action, correlating the efforts of F.B.I. agents Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce) and Max Archer (Neal McDonough) to hunt down Samir for his crimes with the equally concerted attempts by fundamentalist soldiers to learn if Samir is committing those crimes for their version of what is right. Cheadle almost sells the film by his own, especially during a lengthy prison scene that allows the actor to give striking expression to Samir’s devotion to goodness and terror. But once the audience learns that Samir is a U.S. Special Operations officer, it becomes clear that Traitor prides shock plot machinations and the righteous values and tongue-clucking proclivities of its New Yorker demographic more than it does any sincere interest in promoting understanding of Islam or grappling with the nature of guilt. If the chess metaphor around which most of the story seems to have been constructed around weren’t facile enough, the laughably explosive conclusion to a series of mass terrorist attacks within the borders of the United States pretty much confirms Traitor as an intellectual and philosophical lost cause.
- Jeffrey Nachmanoff
- Jeffrey Nachmanoff
- Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Jeff Daniels, Neal McDonough, Saïd Taghmaoui, Archie Panjabi, Lorena Gale, Aly Kahn, Raad Rawi
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