Traitor Review, by James Berardinelli of ReelViews

Traitor is an uncommonly intelligent espionage thriller that explores the moral and ethical dilemmas faced by agents who go deep undercover in the service of their country. For movies that revolve around terrorist organizations and acts, there are typically two approaches: a gung-ho, "John Wayne" style and a story that seeks to humanize the terrorists. Traitor takes a different, less straightforward trajectory that exhibits the complex motivations of the terrorists as well as those who oppose them without resorting to caricatures on either side. The film's villains are not cookie-cutter bad guys and the FBI agents are neither bumbling nor infallible. Caught in the middle of everything is a man trying to save innocent lives but whose actions end up taking them as well.


As the film opens, Samir Horn (Don Cheadle) is in Yemin delivering detonators to a fundamentalist Islamic terrorist group. A covert FBI raid, lead by agents Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce) and Max Archer (Neal McDonough), kills or captures everyone in the compound. Samir and a highly-paced terrorist, Omar (Saïd Taghmaoui), are taken into custody. Under questioning, Samir is given an opportunity to name names in exchange for his freedom, but he refuses. While in prison, Samir and Omar form a bond so, when Omar's allies break him out, he brings Samir with him. Now on the "inside," Samir is where he needs to be to foil a major terrorist attack planned to occur on U.S. soil. We learn that he is an American agent deep under cover - so deep, in fact, that only his handler, a man named Carter (Jeff Daniels), knows about his existence. Carter is a ruthless individual, declaring that Samir should do whatever is necessary to establish himself as legitimate to the terrorists, even if it ultimately costs lives. His sentiments, so like those of Omar, disturb Samir, who believes in a kinder, gentler brand of Islam.


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