TraitorDirected by: Jeffrey Nachmanoff Cast: Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Said Taghmaoui, Neal McDonough Time: 1 hr 54 mins Rating: PG-13
Plot: When a special operative (Cheadle) goes into deep cover constructing horrendously deadly bombs for a terrorist group, he unwillingly becomes a public enemy to the C.I.A.
Who’s It For? Not for the faint of heart, or anyone who only follows world affairs casually. It’s a more relevant version of the Jason Bourne story, hitting far closer to home than any James Bond spin off ever has.
Expectations: A stellar cast isn’t always the perfect formula for cinematic success. After sterling performances in thinking-man films (Hotel Rwanda), and touching humanized features (Reign Over Me), the question is whether or not Cheadle can pull off both at once.
Actors: Don Cheadle as Samir Horn: Reinstates the reason he may be the most impressive chameleon Hollywood has to offer. Samir is a torn individual who hides his angst so well the audience is often left befuddled themselves. A sublime interpretation of what being part of America’s war on terrorism can do to the psyche. Score: 10
Guy Pearce as Roy Clayton: The Australian’s spot-on southern dialect leaves us all believing he was raised Southern Baptist. He makes it hard to hate his character despite portraying an F.B.I. agent who doesn’t mess around. Pearce revitalizes the subtle deadpan delivery he won audiences over with in L.A. Confidential. Score: 9
Saïd Taghmaoui as Omar: Carries the unthinkable load of lobbying for sympathy towards America-hating terrorists. It’s difficult to think of any actor of ethnicity that could have done it better. Few viewers believe the likes of Omar actually experience moments of compassion. Hits all the subtly buttons well, and shoulders the load well. Score: 9
Neal McDonough as Max Archer: Veteran character actor has made a living playing slightly altered versions of Max Archer. Shockingly provides timely comic relief to ably balance out Pearce’s perpetual (sometimes unbearable) intensity. Though his role is far from a stretch for him, he’s more memorable in this than he was in The Guardian, or Minority Report. Score: 7
Talking: A nice blend of Arabic and English brings a harsh sense of realism missing from films tackling a similar genre. Uncannily funny at times, the dialogue doesn’t so much as make you laugh out loud as it makes the characters nervously relatable. A key line regards Samir paraphrasing a quote of the late MLK, gaining a moment of confusion, and then an eruption of laughter from Omar, who would rather step on a landmine than take such Americanisms with any shred of admiration or respect. Score: 9
Sights & Sounds: Nothing overblown, or dramatically cut. There is a definite hue of gray that looms over the entire picture so effectively it feels as though you are always seconds from having to hide your eyes. The soundtrack plays the role of tension-builder without provoking a communal stream of sweat from the brow of the audience. Score: 8
OVERALL This film succeeds in its underlying ability to keep us from preaching from our seats. It makes a world in which sides are taken seem very real without trying to scare us into moving to Canada. The cast never gets carried away with the material, and delivers each line as if their world was as real as the one that inspired the film itself. Without sounding as though I’m lobbying for an Oscar, it’s necessary to insist it’s too strong a film to have to suffer for a late August release. Despite occasionally bordering on smug, the script offers us a fresher take on our enemies than we could have possibly imagined as little as a few years ago. Don Cheadle will absolutely wow you in much the way you would expect—Without ever seeming trite, or unnecessarily involved in his character. Samir’s world is not one I would wish on anyone, friend or enemy, and it’s the way he almost convinces us that fear is stronger than anything but God (Allah) that explains the main reason this film may be one of the more important War movies ever made. Overall Score: 9 out of 10