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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner25/03/2009

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 117 mins

Despite some strong performances and the occasional good moment, Traitor never quite gets the tone right and is ultimately undone by an unintentionally laughable climax.

What's it all about?
Based on an original idea by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin), Traitor stars Guy Pearce as FBI Agent Roy Clayton, who suspects that former US Special Operations officer Samir Horn (Don Cheadle) has ties to Islamic terror group al-Nathir. When Horn helps al-Nathir member Omar (Said Taghmaoui) escape from a Yemeni prison and later bombs a US consulate in Nice, Clayton's suspicions appear to be confirmed, but are things as clear-cut as they seem?

The Good
First things first, the performances are mostly excellent, particularly Pearce (please do more movies, Guy Pearce) and J.R. Ewing lookalike Neal McDonough (Desperate Housewives) as Agent Archer. There's also strong support from the always excellent Taghmaoui and from Jeff Daniels as a CIA agent with his own agenda.

That said, Cheadle does his best, but his part feels frustratingly underwritten in places and it's hard to engage with his character as a result.

The Bad
There are several problems with the film, the biggest of which is that writer-director Jeffrey Nachmanoff struggles to get the tone right. As a result, the film is overly preachy in places and is never sure whether it's a hard-hitting drama about fighting modern-day terrorism, a slick 24-style thriller or a complex character study with a serious point to make about the misappropriation of religion for political ends.

At any rate, the film is largely undone by an unintentionally laughable climax, involving a twist that would shame even Alias. Similarly, it's the sort of film that's overly reliant on massive coincidences, such as the previously globe-trotting Clayton happening to be idling at his desk at the exact moment that a crucial email arrives. (Clearly the script was written pre-Blackberry.)

Worth seeing?
In short, Traitor is well acted and never less than watchable but it's ultimately disappointing, thanks to an uneven tone and an unintentionally laughable finale.

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Content updated: 24/01/2020 11:16

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