Reviewed by: Val Kermode

Samir Horn (Don Cheadle) is a devout Sudanese Muslim. He is also a former US Special Operations officer and explosives expert. When he presents himself to a group of terrorists in Yemen as a seller of Semtex and detonators, he is already being trailed by the FBI and a rogue CIA man. Following a shootout, he ends up in jail, where he is befriended by Omar (Said Taghmaoui) and the two subsequently break out and flee to France.

There Samir joins in the recruiting of suicide bombers and proves his abilities by blowing up the American embassy in Nice. Soon he is working for London based terrorist boss Nathir (Raad Rawi) and is sent back into the United States to co-ordinate a spectacular operation.

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But nothing is as it seems (the clue being in the title). Samir keeps showing up on the radar as the FBI try to track down the bombers who seem to be one step ahead. Will they reach him before the big one? And whose side is he really on?

The strong storyline (originally by Steve Martin) is one of the best things about this film and to reveal any more would be a spoiler. Suffice to say, there are many twists and turns, and a particularly neat one at the end.

On a serious note, one might ask whether, despite this particular film’s determination to be even-handed about Islam, we really need yet another film on this theme. Don’t all those shots of Muslims with rucksacks full of explosives just reinforce the idea that Muslim equals terrorist? Is this really counter-balanced by giving characters clunky lines like, “Seems every religion has more than one face”? Of course, the argument about Muslim stereotypes has been going on for many years now and pressure groups have been active since films like The Siege in 1998. In the wake of 9/11 films such as Sum Of All Fears felt obliged to change their Muslim terrorists to European neo-Nazis. It would be interesting to know how much the screenplay of Traitor has been altered since it first started out in 2002.

But yes, it’s a film, it’s a thriller, it’s entertainment. Billed as “This year’s Bourne Ultimatum”, mercifully it doesn’t have the frantic editing, but it still manages to build suspense and keep you engaged as the action moves across continents. It’s well paced, with no time wasted on subplots, and with good performances from Don Cheadle, who always lends an air of integrity, and from Guy Pearce as the leading FBI man. There’s nothing very new here, but these two actors certainly make it watchable.

I predict controversy, but then possibly a sequel.

Reviewed on: 06 Mar 2009
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Traitor packshot
A terrorist inveigles himself into a conspiracy to commit a large-scale attack on America, but whose side is he really on?
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Director: Jeffrey Nachmanoff

Writer: Jeffrey Nachmanoff, Steve Martin

Starring: Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Saïd Taghmaoui, Neal McDonough, Alyy Khan, Archie Panjabi, Raad Rawi, Hassam Ghancy, Mozhan Marnò, Adeel Akhtar

Year: 2008

Runtime: 114 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


Bradford 2009

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