Saturday, August 30, 2008


by Pa Rock

Traitor is a spy thriller on the order of what Robert Ludlum used to write - an agent trapped abroad in deep cover who is at risk from the good guys and the bad guys. But it is a thriller with a very clear message: the needs of humanity supersede those of groups with agendas, whether they be terrorist cells or national governments. Don Cheadle was so moved by the script that he offered to put his own money into the production, not even knowing if someone with the box office recognition of a Denzel Washington might come in at the last minute and take the title role from him. Fortunately for us, Denzel let this one pass and Cheadle picked up another powerful role.

Cheadle portrays Samir, a devout Muslim and former U.S. Army sergeant, who had disappeared in the Middle East until he was arrested on terrorism charges. He is secretly in the control of one CIA agent (Jeff Daniels) who has told no one else of the highly secret intelligence operation. The FBI stumbles onto Samir prior to his escape from a Yemeni prison, and spends the rest of the movie in pursuit of the terrorist who got away.

Guy Pearce is the FBI agent who is fixated on finding Samir. (Pearce has changed markedly from his roles of Adam Whitely a.k.a. Felicia Jollygoodfellow in the Australian hit, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, to the prissy, self-absorbed Lt. Ed Exley in L.A. Confidential, to his role in this film where he plays a hard-bitten FBI agent with a decidedly southern accent and strong Baptist roots. He has the breadth and depth to take on any role.)

And while Cheadle and Pearce both inhabit their characters in believable fashion, it is Said Taghmaoui who gives the most powerful performance as the true terrorist, Omar. Omar leads us into the minds and logic of suicide bombers and those who would spread their message through highly individualized and effective bursts of shock and awe. It is through his eyes that we learn we are all terrorists - and we are all victims.

The only regrettable part of this movie was that the climactic terrorist act was the planned bombings of fifty Greyhound buses on Thanksgiving Day as they traversed America. It has been a very tough year for Greyhound (take the bus and leave your head with us), and the company did not need to have that thought planted in the minds of travelers.

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