Monday, August 25, 2008

almost walked away from this Traitor

Overture Films' Traitor
In Traitor, straight arrow FBI agent Roy Clayton heads up the investigation into a dangerous international conspiracy, all clues seem to lead back to former U.S. Special Operations officer, Samir Horn. A mysterious figure with a web of connections to terrorist organizations, Horn has a knack for emerging on the scene just as a major operation goes down. The inter-agency task force looking into the case meets with Carter, a veteran CIA contractor who seemingly has his own agenda and Max Archer, a fellow FBI agent. The task force links Horn to a prison break in Yemen, a bombing in Nice and a raid in London, but a tangle of contradictory evidence emerges, forcing Clayton to question whether his quarry is a disaffected former military operative -- or something far more complicated. Obsessed with discovering the truth, Clayton tracks Horn across the globe as the elusive ex-soldier burrows deeper and deeper into a world of shadows and intrigue.
Traitor is writer/director Jeffrey Nachmanoff's powerful rumination on post-9/11 foreign affairs wrapped up into a taut contemporary spy thriller. Balancing the film's sometimes conflicted ideological heft is Don Cheadle, who turns in a smartly even-keeled performance as Samir Horn, a Sudanese-born, Chicago-raised former U.S. Army Special Forces operative. The action begins with a jarring prologue set in Sudan in 1978, where the young Samir witnesses the murder of his father by car bombing. Jumping swiftly to present day Yemen, Samir, in a dramatically ironic twist, is revealed as a mercenary selling explosives to Muslim extremists. But what is never completely clear throughout TRAITOR's numerous plot-twists is just where Horn's allegiances truly lie: is he an American spy infiltrating a Jihadist plot or a devout Muslim who has traded his sympathies with the West? When an arms sale runs afoul, Samir is jailed in a Yemeni prison where he befriends Omar (Said Taghmaoui), a ringleader of a terrorist organization that is being watched by the F.B.I. A bold prison break is hatched and the pair begins collaborating on a series of bombings throughout Europe. As Samir becomes embroiled in ever-escalating terror plots, it becomes clear that he is duplicitously playing both sides at growing danger to himself and the lives of innocent people. Cut with a breathless, war reportage-styled pace, TRAITOR is an action-packed, suspense-filled thriller whose seemingly equivocal ideological veneer can be summed up as: "In war, there are no winners." Don Cheadle, heart sewn to his sleeve, is badly miscast in this war-on-terror thriller -- not for a moment did I believe that his gentle, soulful character had the stuff to function as a serial mass murderer, let alone gain the confidence of other cold-blooded killers. Cheadle is a cool enough character that this wouldn't necessarily be a deal-breaker, but the transparency of his intentions renders the film's coy guessing games about his allegiance more or less over the top. Guy Pearce is quite good as the agent who suspects that Cheadle might not be the international sociopath the rest of the FBI has him pegged as, but the film isn't as clever as it needs to be to drive the cat-and-mouse storyline. By the time Cheadle's character makes the biggest chump move in the book -- visiting his ex-girlfriend in Chicago even though any terror plotter worth his C4 would know she's under surveillance -- Traitor has proven itself to be about as realistic as any given episode of 24, but not half as much fun. This one actually put me asleep, but what I DID see (which was most of it) wasn't enough to hold my attention. Another good plot that seemed to go nowhere. A disappointing 2 on my "Go See" scale.

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