Traitor

Posted on August 27, 2008 at 6:00 am

B
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences, thematic material and brief language
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Smoking, drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Frequent violence including terrorist acts, bombs, guns, some graphic images, suicides
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: August 27, 2008

A timely story, some welcome complexity, and a compelling performance elevate this story of terrorism above the usual bang-bang.
Don Cheadle plays Samir, a person of interest being tracked by the authorities for his possible involvement in terrorist activities. He witnessed his father’s death from terrorism in Sudan when he was a child. Later he became a US Special Forces soldier trained in munitions. He is a devout Muslim. Whose side is he on now? We follow Samir as he is imprisoned for terrorism in the Mid-East. At first, Omar (Saïd Taghmaoui) the Muslim leader of the toughest gang in the prison, sees him as a challenger because he does not immediately ask for protection. But he grows to respect and then feel friendship for Samir and helps him to escape. Together, with the help of a wealthy supporter, they plan an audacious attack on the United States. Traitor.jpg
Meanwhile, American agents led by Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce) are trying to find Samir. The characters constantly criss-cross the globe and seem to move just as easily across geographic borders as they do across legal, cultural, and moral lines. As the FBI tries to figure out whether Samir is a good guy or a bad guy, we must make the same calculation about them.
The story for this film was created by comedian/actor Steve Martin along with director Jeffrey Nachmanoff, who wrote the screenplay. It has a welcome murkiness that shows more insight and respect for the complexities of global affairs than the usual cliches and stereotypes. If that seems at first less satisfying it is because it is more demanding. The audience can’t hold on to superficial signifiers and has to be willing to shift its own allegiances throughout the story. If that makes the ending less immediately satisfying, it makes it more thoughtful, more resonant. And through it all, Cheadle’s courageous and focused portrayal of a devout man who is trying to find a way to reconcile his beliefs with his experiences shows his sincere loyalty to his story, his character, his audience, and his own search for truth.


Parents should know that the film includes frequent violence including terrorist acts, bombs, guns, suicides, prison fighting, some graphic images, and brief strong language. Characters smoke and drink.
Family discussion: Who is the traitor? Do you agree with Samir’s decision on the suicide bombers? With his decision at the end of the movie?
If you like this, try: “Syriana” (rated R), “The War Within,” “Paradise Now”

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2 Replies to “Traitor”

  1. that was a good objective look at the storyline and the ‘story within’. i must say these kinds of movies dont seem to popular with the American audience– this movie has barely broken the paychekc of a tom cruise movie– and the same goes to all the other anti-American movies i.e. lions for lambs. Perhaps Americans are fed up from Hollywood telling us what we should like versus what we actually appreciate. I guess liberalism roots spread so deep we have to transcend our own intelligence to put aside our core beliefs to watch with Hollywood calls ‘entertaining’.

  2. Chris — Thanks so much for a very thoughtful comment. I think most people just want to be entertained by movies, and that is something Hollywood understands very well. As they used to say in Hollywood back in the old days — “You want to send a message, try a telegram.” It’s show business, after all; they care more about making money than anything else. And as H.L. Mencken said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the American people.”
    I’m not sure I agree with your political assessment. “Lions for Lambs” was not anti-American. Remember that there were characters on every side and they were all American. It failed because it was too talky, not because of a political agenda. As for “Traitor” and a number of other films I recommend on this site, I think it is too complex and sad to attract a bigger audience, which is too bad as I’d like more people to see it.

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