1 hour, 54 minutes
Second-Run Seats ($$)
When Samir Horn (Don Cheadle, Crash) was a young boy, he witnessed his Sudanese father die in a car bombing. He then grew up with his mother in Chicago and worked for the U.S. Special Forces before leaving the military after his tour in the Persian Gulf. After being picked up in Yemen for selling explosives to terrorists, Horn is interrogated by FBI agents Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce, L.A. Confidential) and Max Archer (Neal McDonough, The Hitcher) about his terrorist ties. While in prison, Horn befriends a fellow Muslim, Omar (Said Taghmaoui, Vantage Point), who offers him a life filled with devout purpose by fighting the American agressors.
Like Agent Clayton, I had a feeling. He felt Samir Horn was more than he appeared. Based on the trailer, I felt Traitor would be full of twists and turns. Clayton was right; I was wrong. tells it straight and doesn't cut any corners, not a single one. Written by Steve Martin (TraitorShopgirl) and Jeffrey Nachmanoff (The Day After Tomorrow), who also directed, Traitor thoroughly explores the motivations of a devout Muslim and the propoganda that is used to enlist him into the terrorist cause. Audiences watch Horn deal explosives, practice Islam and battle his conscience, crafting a rich, relatable character.
Thanks to Cheadle's performance, my attention was rapt, waiting for the simmering terrorist plot to boil over. Somehow it never really did. Sure, Cheadle got to kick butt and Pearce got to sling some Southern swagger. Jeff Daniels (Blood Work) even put down his sandwich long enough to film four scenes, but by the time the crescendo came, I had long since tapped out. Despite an interesting premise, the methodical structure wrings the umph from the film. I walked out thinking this was the longest two and a half hours of my life. To my surprise, I had been held captive less than two hours.
I'll say it again: Cheadle does lay down a few serious ass-whuppins. He also gets the living hell beat out of him and gets to blow shit up a few times. The nerve-wracking conspiracies may make you think twice about that foreign barista next time you visit the Starfucks. If you are a paranoid-profiler type, maybe you should sit this one out.
The Money Shot
You really can't go wrong with a film starring the excellent Don Cheadle. You can go wrong if you go looking for anything beyond Cheadle's performance. Essentially, the string of solid performances, from Cheadle to Pearce to Taghmoui, gets smothered by the film itself. Traitor not only betrays its actors, it betrays us all.
Thursday, August 28, 2008