Friday, September 19, 2008

Don, the Traitor

It is not a secret that I love Don Cheadle, so I may be a little biased in saying that Traitor was a great movie. But I don't care because Traitor was a great movie. It's a little like The Departed meets Muslim extremist. Some people might consider this a bad combination, but with an actor as good a Cheadle in the lead, it worked for me. Here's a little tip that might throw you, Steve Martin (yep, that one) came up with the story while shooting Bringing Down the House. Let me just say, bravo Steve on a compelling story.

Cheadle is Samir Horn, a devout Muslim who was born in Sudan, raised in Chicago and is a former US Army Special Forces expert. The film starts with a young Samir praying with his father. When tragedy strikes, we jump ahead to present-day Samir in Yemin selling explosives to a terrorists group. Huh, go figure.

When he gets caught by Yemin officers and an FBI task force, he spends time in a Yemeni prison where he befriends Omar (
Saïd Taghmaoui), a ringleader of a terrorist group. When Omar takes Samir with him as they escape prison, Samir becomes part of the group's ever-escalating terror plots all over Europe and soon to American soil. The thing is, you're wondering the whole time if Samir is just an American spy trying to get the bad guys, or is he now rogue and playing for the other team?

This whole time two FBI agents are following him around the world--Agents Clayton and Archer (Guy Pierce and Neal McDonough). Agent Clayton is an empathetic one who was raised a good Christian boy but went against the grain when he studied Arabic in school. Archer is the aggressive one who thinks with his fists and doesn't believe in a gray area. Yes, they're sort of stereotyped, but they're not in the movie enough for me to care too much.

With the good guys--the FBI--and the bad guys--the terrorist--pitted against one another. Traitor seems like a movie that could quickly fall into the black hats vs. the white hats kind of movie. Omar definitely talks about his hatred and why he believes Americans should die in bombings. Archer definitely talks about how much damage these men have done and could do to the American way. But Samir is always their with his faith.

He questions every motive, every idea by bringing it back to God and morality. Samir's message never waivers: bad things happen in this world, but we are not here to be the judges of who is right and who is wrong. With such a strong character in Samir, Traitor moves away from being a run-of-the-mill extremist against Americans movie and becomes a morality tale for both sides.

There are people who will be bothered by this idea of both the good guys and the bad guys having some of the same traits, but isn't it true? It's never over-emphasized, and the terrorists definitely are the bad guys in the movie, but they're not faceless drones.

Besides being a movie about the current political/social issues in this world, Traitor is also a good thriller with some terribly disturbing moments. I don't mean disturbing with blood and gore and all that. I mean getting under your skin and making the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The idea that a man with such a strong faith in God would put himself in these situations--risking all that he has and knows to do what he believes is right, and the idea of extremists sympathizers infiltrating our lives just waiting for the moment when they can destroy definitely gets under your skin.

This isn't really the type of movie that you enjoy per say, but I did think it was a terrific movie that will have you talking...and maybe not necessarily about war and terror.