Traitor: Movie Review
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Traitor offers a gripping ride through the world of terrorism and espionage, as well as an intriguing look inside the minds of Islamic extremists. It’s not the type of movie one would expect from Steve Martin (yes, the comedian) who originally pitched the idea to writer/director Jeffrey Nachmanoff and served as one of the film’s executive producers.
Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda, Crash) stars as Samir Horn, a Muslim American that once served as a U.S. Special Operations officer. Having been trained in the Special Forces, he is an expert on explosives. The movie opens with him attempting to sell bombs to Islamic terrorists in Yemen when he is arrested in a raid.
While in prison, Horn befriends another devoted Muslim, Omar, portrayed by French-Moroccan actor Said Taghmaoui (The Kite Runner, Vantage Point). Omar is part of an international terrorist organization that has been involved in recent terror attacks and has more in the works. They recruit Horn to join their team.
Meanwhile, an inter-agency government task force has been formed to look into the recent bombings in London and France that are believed to be linked to the group, and Horn has not escaped their notice. He has a knack for showing up around the location where bombs are set off, and then quickly disappearing. FBI agent Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce, Memento, LA Confidential) heads up the investigation and makes catching Horn his sole goal. As he chases his suspect across the world, he learns of a chilling terror plot on the scale of 9/11 that the group has planned for America.
The film offers enough action to keep thrill seekers entertained, but it doesn’t sacrifice intellect to do so. It tackles thought provoking questions like, “What should one be willing to die for?” and “How far should America go in the interest of national security?” often raising more questions than answers. It also hints at a softer side, exploring the friendship that is formed between Omar and Horn as they each struggle with what their faith means to them.
Though not quite as fast-paced as similar cat-and-mouse thrillers like the Bourne films, the movie offers enough suspense to hold our attention and builds to a satisfying conclusion.
Cheadle turns in an excellent performance as Horn, the man of faith struggling to find his way in the midst of a world that seems to have divided itself along religious lines. It is often unclear where Horn’s true loyalties lie. Even as he quotes passages in the Koran that advocate jihad, he struggles with the idea of killing innocent people, something his fellow Muslim counterparts have readily made peace with. Their view is that jihad is simply a part of their divine duty, and is even an honor, in their service to Allah. Cheadle captures and portrays his character’s internal struggle brilliantly.
Cheadle is backed by solid performances from a well-chosen supporting cast including Pearce as the highly intellectual FBI agent pursuing Horn and Taghmaoui as the terrorist that Horn befriends.
In addition to being an entertaining suspense thriller, Traitor offers a thought provoking look at Islam, jihad, and the war on terror. Perhaps the intended message from the filmmakers could be interpreted along the lines of the politically correct manifesto that “not all Muslims are terrorists.” In fact, the film instructs us that “every religion has more than one face." Yet for Christians, perhaps the film will best serve as a reminder that we are indeed in the midst of a spiritual battle, one that is not to be taken lightly.
Traitor is rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences, thematic material, and brief language. Several scenes of graphic violence dispersed throughout the film make it inappropriate for younger audiences. Parents will probably want to leave the kids at home for this one.
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