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TRAITOR

SYNOPSIS:
FBI agent Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce) leads an investigation into a dangerous international conspiracy, in which all clues lead to former U.S. Special Operations officer, Samir Horn (Don Cheadle). A mysterious figure with a web of connections to terrorist organizations, Horn has a knack for emerging on the scene just as a major operation goes down. The task force links Horn to a prison break in Yemen, a bombing in Nice and a raid in London, but a tangle of contradictory evidence emerges, forcing Clayton to question whether his quarry is a disaffected former military operative - or something far more complicated. Obsessed with discovering the truth, Clayton tracks Horn across the globe as the elusive ex-soldier burrows deeper and deeper into the world of Middle East terrorism.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Yes, it's that Steve Martin, the well known screen comic, who co-wrote this screenplay with Jeffrey Nachmanoff and that's only the first surprise. Tackling Islamist terrorism for a story, as have several recent films, the filmmakers here take a decidedly different tack - but I'm not about to detail that as it would be a major spoiler. What can be said is that America is not painted as either the demon or saintly democracy, and Islam gets the same treatment. The Koran is part of the battleground for the film's moral compass, and while it may overshoot the average multiplex goer's comfort zone for a spy movie, it engages on a serious level.

The film's elements remain action thriller oriented, though, and there is no shortage of tension, danger, action and gunfire. But Martin and Nachmanoff aim for a better target: they're grappling with the world's most explosive (literally, metaphorically) subject matter and the mission is serious - perhaps, impossible. But 10 out of 10 for trying.

Guy Pearce is tight as a wound spring as the FBI Agent in pursuit, and Don Cheadle gives a remarkable performance as the devout Muslim whose faith gives him the real moral ground for seeking change. Nothing is quite as it seems, although we are privy to the plot device half way through, a decision that the filmmakers must have agonised over.

The story flings us around the world from Yemen to Toronto to London to Marseilles to various North American locales - mostly without signalling the trip. This certainly helps keeps the pace up and cuts to the chase, but it also tends to rob the film of a sense of place - and we lose it universally. This is a double edged sword in an editing sense, but ultimately it doesn't weaken the film's intentions. The title puts it out there for us to ponder: betrayal, like everything else, is relative. It's a gripping and satisfying film - and thought provoking.

Review by Louise Keller:
Traitor or Patriot? Terrorist or hero? The answer is subjective and what I like about this complex drama is that we become party to both sides. The sons of two preachers are at the film's centre and both Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce are absolutely convincing. This is Pearce's best performance since LA Confidential and Memento; his delivery occasionally reminiscent of Tommy Lee Jones' laid-back drawl as he embodies the tenacious FBI agent in pursuit of a suspected terrorist. Cheadle is intense and gripping as the Muslim protagonist who may not feel at home anywhere but dreams in English.

The fact that Steve Martin has a hand in the storyline (with director Jeffrey Nachmanoff) is an extra credential in its favour; the story is smart without being obvious, the action intelligent and the characters well developed. Sobering in many ways, the film canvasses a bunch of issues that form part of our world today. It's frightening to see the ease with which terrorists can communicate with their supporters and how easily a plot can be put into effect with careful planning.

Shot in several countries, Nachmanoff keeps good control of all the elements as twists and turns form an effective part of the narrative. The relationship between Cheadle's Samir and Sad Taghmaoui's Omar is well developed, beginning when Samir offers a prisoner his food portion in a Yemen prison and ends on a cargo vessel headed for Marseilles. In between, they play chess ('You must be willing to sacrifice pawns if you want to win'), share confidences and look out for each other. Alyy Khan's Fareed has great presence and Jeff Daniels is a surprise as the FBI agent who sticks his neck out for his beliefs. At times we are not sure what is going on, but in the context of a multifaceted storyline, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Kilian's music score is outstanding, adding to the tension that builds to the story's natural climax and we are engrossed.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

JEFFREY NACHMANOFF INTERVIEW

TRAITOR (M)
(US, 2008)

CAST: Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Jeff Daniels, Neal McDonough

PRODUCER: Don Cheadle, David Hoberman, Kay Liberman, Todd Liberman, Chris McGurk

DIRECTOR: Jeffrey Nachmanoff

SCRIPT: Jeffrey Nachmanoff (story by Steve Martin, Jeffrey Nachmanoff)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: J. Michael Muro

EDITOR: Billy Fox

MUSIC: Mark Kilian

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Laurence Bennett

RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 6, 2008







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