Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Traitor" winds up betraying itself

For a movie steeped in such incendiary issues as terrorism and the battle for the soul of Islam, "Traitor" seems awfully marginal. A thriller with a surfeit of plot twists, "Traitor" tries hard to deliver the right message, but I agree with those who feel the screenplay shortchanges both its thriller and moral dimensions. "Traitor" also is the first movie in which the talented Don Cheadle gives a less than fascinating performance. Cheadle portrays Samir Horn, a Muslim man whose Sudanese father was murdered by terrorists. Horn later found his way into the U.S. Special Forces. Cheadle's difficulty may have something to do with the ambiguity that fogs the lens through which we see his character. The always emaciated Guy Pearce signs on as an FBI agent, assigned to tracking Horn and the Qaeda-like cell that recruits him. For all its plot ploys, the most surprising thing about "Traitor" has nothing to do with what transpires on screen. It's this: Steve Martin, still best known for comedy, wrote the story on which director Jeffrey Nachmanoff based the screenplay. And, no, there's not a laugh in sight.

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