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Rating: 3.0

Rated: PG-13 for intense violent sequences, thematic material and brief language.
Release Date: 2008-08-27
Starring: Jeffrey Nachmanoff,
Film Genre:
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We know someone is either betraying a friend, a country or a principle – that we obviously get from the title. But who and why is something that’s buried deep enough in the film to keep us guessing and wondering how clever the filmmakers can actually get with this.

In some ways, ‘Traitor’ is the classic espionage film that mixes and matches modern day headlines to construct a plot where Americans continue fighting terrorism all across the world.  To its credit however, it manages to personalize the story of its protagonist to a certain degree, stripping the film of the politically sententious rhetoric that so often make these films come across as propaganda.

Deceptively, Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda, Crash) plays Samir Horn, a former U.S. military operative who is linked to illicit activities in the middle east.  When an FBI agent (Guy Pearce) heads the investigation, he begins to track Horn’s every move slowly uncovering the truth behind the massive conspiracy he’s been a part of.

Ultimately, the film is about a man trying to do the right thing for the right reasons, or his own convictions, but also about how wrong things can go in the process.  In Traitor, that man just happens to be a Muslim American who finds himself in the middle of the conflict with hard decisions to make.  However dangerously close the films comes to being about religious extremism and how far people will go for what they believe in, it is very careful with its commentary on the matter. 

With a story that’s so rooted in politics and religion, the filmmakers actually manage to say very little about either subject. Both a good and a bad thing depending on how you look at it.  Its moral ambiguity may frustrate some but alleviate others just tuning in to watch bombs being disarmed at the last possible second.

The film’s strong performances (save for Jeff Daniels as the veteran CIA contractor with a personal agenda) almost do the impossible: make it cliché-proof.  Unfortunately, it is what it is: another spy thriller mirroring the ever present war on terror.

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