Traitor (DVD)

Killing in the name of…

There’s a sense that not all is as it seems at the beginning of Jeffrey Nachmanoff’s explosive thriller; for a start, Don Cheadle is playing a bad guy. Yes, hard as it is to believe Cheadle, the loveable Cock-er-ny rogue from the Ocean’s movies, stars as Samir Hord, a former US Special Operations officer who is now selling bombs to Islamic radicals in Yemen. But he hadn’t reckoned on the due diligence of FBI agent Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce), and is caught up in a raid and imprisoned. Befriending an influential fellow inmate, Samir becomes part of an escape plot, gains his freedom and becomes integral to a plot to simultaneously blow up buses across small town America. But is he really a terrorist at heart?

Ocean’s movies aside, Cheadle is a fine actor – remember his mesmerising performance in Hotel Rwanda – and pulls of a potentially difficult role with aplomb. It may sound impossible to find sympathy with a man who’s planning the death of hundreds in the name of religious freedom, but Cheadle’s performance captures Samir’s vulnerability and isolation, understandable due to horrific events in his past.

Fa ith i n his character is vindicated by the film’s explosive climax, which will come as no surprise to those who have spotted the pointers in Nachmanoff’s fast-paced script (which he co-wrote, somewhat surprisingly, with actor Steve Martin) but which is cathartic nevertheless. And it’s always a pleasure to see Pearce on screen, although here he plays a definite second fiddle to Cheadle. Even the mighty Jeff Daniels, cast as a surly senior intelligence office, can’t steal the limelight from Cheadle in their scenes together; it’s Cheadle’s performance, poised, restrained and believable, that holds the story together even through it’s rockier moments. And he’s helped by Nackmanoff’s strong and confident direction, as the film-maker knows enough to give his lead actor the room to reveal the many facets of his character.

Although Traitor touches on important, controversial and timely subjects of terrorism, suicide bombers and religious extremism, it only really brushes the surface of these complex ideas. It is, however, a solid thriller, exhilarating when it needs to be and entertaining throughout, with another exemplary performance from Cheadle at its heart. 4 stars

Extra Features
The highlight here is undoubtedly the in-depth commentary with director Nachmanoff and Don Cheadle, while there’s also featurettes on the action sequences and the locations seen throughout the film. 3 stars

Stars Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Jeff Daniels
Director Jeffrey Nachmanoff
Format DVD & Blu-ray
Distributor Momentum Pictures
Released August 31