Monday, August 25, 2008

"Traitor" dependable as solid, fast-moving thriller

By Kirk Honeycutt
1 hour, 58 minutes ago

The film, which opens Wednesday (August 27) via Overture
Films, is a genuinely gripping tale about international
terrorism that hopscotches across three continents. It moves
from a filthy, sweaty prison to the air-conditioned
headquarters of the FBI as an agent tracks a shadowy Muslim
American through a string of conspiracies and fatal bombings.

The film offers no serious insights into the terrorist
mind-set, Wahhabism or jihadist goals. Its characters are built
for speed, not complications, though the tangled plot does
create a few moral conundrums plus an intriguing third-act
twist, albeit one that most viewers will see coming.

Producer-star Don Cheadle dominates the film as the
renegade U.S. military operative, but he does so without
stealing any thunder from a number of fine actors in meaty
roles. The film looks poised to play to a fairly broad
international audience, though presumably not in the Middle

"Traitor" launches parallel stories simultaneously when Guy
Pearce's FBI agent Roy Clayton and his old-school partner, Max
Archer (Neal McDonough), encounter an American citizen inside a
Yemeni prison. Cheadle's Samir Horn, who was born in that
country, has been caught peddling detonators to militants. When
he rejects their offer to exchange information for freedom, the
agents figure that's the last they'll see of him.

But Samir is befriended in prison by a strong-willed
terrorist named Omar (Moroccan-French actor Said Taghmaoui).
Omar not only appreciates Samir's skills with explosives and
combat but also recognizes a fellow true believer. Despite
being raised in the U.S. after the assassination of his Yemeni
father, Samir has become a jihadist. During a prison break,
Omar takes Samir along. Soon bombings in Spain and then France
trace back to Omar's terrorist network. A closed-circuit camera
even catches Samir leaving the U.S. consulate in Nice moments
before a fatal blast.

The escalating stories on both sides, certain to converge
at a fateful juncture, present a classic race against time. As
Samir moves deeper into the terrorist network, he makes contact
with its Westernized strategists, well-hidden money men and
sleeper cells throughout North America. Meanwhile, as Roy
frantically maneuvers to discover and disarm a large terrorist
attack designed to coincide with Thanksgiving, he grows
convinced that there is more to Samir than meets the eye.

Robust performances pop up at every point. Bollywood actor
Aly Khan plays a terrorist disguised as a sophisticated
international businessman. Jeff Daniels is a CIA contractor who
knows more than he lets on. Mozhan Marno is the agent back at
headquarters on top of every move in the international
terrorist community. Indian-British actress Archie Panjabi
plays an old girlfriend in Chicago whom Samir mistakenly tries
to contact. (That last plot turn is poorly motivated.)

With a sprawling production that spans many international
locations, "Traitor" is efficient and convincing. It's a fast
ride, but its central character, the enigmatic Samir Horn, is
always cool and calm.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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