Sunday, January 31, 2010


Traitor was released in August of 2008 and sank like a stone. I'd never heard of it until I saw a trailer while waiting for a DVD rental to start a few months ago. The Beloved Spouse thought it looked interesting, so we put it on the NetFlix list to linger on top of one of our stereo speakers for a couple of months before we watched it Saturday night.

We would never have waited so long if we'd known how good it was.

Don Cheadle stars, and I've never seen him in anything that wasn't worth watching. He plays Samir Horn, a former American Special Forces soldier turned suspected terrorist arms dealer who's working his way to the top of the organization. There are a couple of plot twists I don't want to spoil; suffice to say everything about Samir is more complicated than it looks, right up to the end. Cheadle is, as always, wonderful. Samir is a hardass with sensitivity who could easily be a cut-out used to show the convenient emotion. Cheadle plays him as conflicted about what is right, and what levels of right there are.

Guy Pearce (LA Confidential) is an equally complex FBI agent: Jeff Daniels is a less subtle, but still effective, intelligence contractor working for the American government. All performances are uniformly excellent, and the screenplay by director Jeffrey Nachmanoff unfolds Steve Martin's story enticingly, revealing as much as you need to know to keep from being lost, but no more. (Yes, that Steve Martin.)

Traitor is an unapologetic look at terrorism, religion, and government that provides no easy answers. By the end you're sure where Martin, Nachmanoff, and Cheadle (who rescued the project in turnaround and produced it himself, with others) stand, though there's still food for discussion after it's over.

An underrated gem; I'd watch it again.

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