Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Trailer; Commentary with director Jeffrey Nachmanoff and Don Cheadle; Action Featurette; Exotic Locations Featurette.
THE war on terror continues to provide fertile hunting ground for movie-makers to explore the moral and ethical complexities it represents.
Jeffrey Nachmanoff’s Traitor is one of the more rounded and authentic examinations of the situations. It offers a tense, twisting what if scenario that tackles the war on terror from the front lines of both sides.
Don Cheadle plays American arms dealer Samir Horn, an ultra-cautious lone operative with Islamic sympathies who is first seen brokering an arms deal with extremists in Yemen. He is subsequently arrested and thrown into prison but refuses to take the offer of assistance provided by FBI agent Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce) in order to pursue his own agenda.
But who is Samir working for? Is it the extremists who eventually warm to his silence and loyalty and recruit him for a series of special training missions across Europe and America, or a hidden US government department?
It’s left to Clayton to figure this out as he attempts to thwart an imminent threat to national security.
Nachmanoff’s film offers a compelling battle of wits between these two men that can be enjoyed on many levels. As a pure action thriller, Traitor can sit comfortably alongside the likes of 24 and the Bourne movies in the way it mixes brawn with brains, as well as explosive spectacle.
But it’s level of authenticity is what catches the eye the most. Nachmanoff has been careful to avoid easy racial stereotypes and pat situations, opting instead to take a considered look at the situation from both sides.
His film subsequently includes intelligent debate on the nature of Islam, and the way it’s preachings can be manipulated for extremist gain, as well as intriguing insights into the way that US intelligence gathering services consistently fail to liaise with each other.
As a result, the film also draws strong performances from a uniformly excellent cast. Cheadle, of course, stands out having been given the bulk of the heavy lifting. His Samir is a complex, sensitive individual whose true motivations are never quite clear.
But Pearce is great as the dedicated, even patient, Fed on his tail, while the likes of Jeff Daniels and Saïd Taghmaoui as, respectively, a government liaison officer and a conflicted terrorist, also impress.
The only minor criticism comes with Traitor‘s final act, which seems impossibly naive in the current climate. It errs on the side of Hollywood entertainment rather than gritty realism and deprives the film of a really devastating conclusion.
With that in mind, however, Traitor remains an exciting, thought-provoking and highly recommended thriller.
Running time: 114mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: August 31, 2009
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Jeffrey Nachmanoff interview
- Traitor photo gallery