Review: ‘Traitor’

For a movie about terrorism–the scariest thing that could actually happen–Traitor is pretty…well, not scary.  It’s not that there are any glaring “yeah, right!” moments (although there are a few plot holes).  But there’s no sense of impending doom, which you might want if you’re going to tap into the collective fear of the American people.

What’s it about? Samir Horn (Don Cheadle) is a devout Muslim who’s also a former US Special Ops officer.  Samir’s gone rogue, and now supplies Muslim extremists with weapons.  While arranging a deal in Yemen he befriends a group of terrorists who have plans to first hit the US embassy in Spain and then an elaborate 9/11-style attack on American soil during the Thanksgiving holiday.

FBI agent Roy Clayton (Guy Pierce) is on Samir’s trail, always one step behind.  But Samir has a secret that not his Jihadist comrades nor the FBI knows: he’s actually deep undercover for the CIA.

What’s good about it? The film, like 2005’s Syriana, gives viewers a better understanding of what motivates Muslims to wage a holy war on America.  In fact, for a good third of the film, I thought I was watching a movie where the good guy was, in fact, the bad guy–it’s quite a while before you find out which side Samir is really on.  It’s also reminiscent of the Bourne movies in that it has that “criss-cross all over the globe” feel.

What’s bad about it? As mentioned before, the story has quite a few  holes.  There also is no real sense of the timeline to the Thanksgiving terrorist plot.  Samir jumps from Yemen to France to Spain to Canada to Chicago to Canada in what seems like a week.  Perhaps the sense of dread and fear of knowing how many days left until the planned attack would have anted up the suspense.

There are also some extranneous characters, particularly Clayton’s FBI partner Max Archer (Neil McDonough, Minority Report) and Samir’s girlfriend, Chandra (Archie Panjabi, Bend it Like Beckham).  Neither has much to do and with some tweaking of the script, both probably could have been more integral to the story or excised completely.

Perfect for: Fans of the Bourne movies.

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