Making the Grades
Today's thrillers are a far cry from yesteryear when the good guys all wore white and the bad guys dressed in black. Terrorism has become filmmakers' new source of fear mongering and in the global web of intrigue suddenly everyone is a suspect.
Like many in the business of war, Samir Horn (Don Cheadle) is an opportunist, selling his detonators to the highest bidder regardless of which side they are on. When a botched job lands him in a Yemen prison on charges of terrorism, the Sudanese-born, former special operative with an American passport is given one chance at a "get-out-of-jail-free" card by a couple of U.S. F.B.I. agents unofficially operating in the Middle Eastern country.
Declining their offer, he decides to take his chances in the jail after one of them attempts to beat sensitive information out of him. His refusal to talk, however, doesn't mean Agents Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce) and Max Arthur (Neal McDonough) are ready to forget about the detainee. Back in their Washington D.C. office, Samir's picture is placed front and center on their terrorist activity board after traces of his detonators are found at several bombing sites in Europe.
Despite the F.B.I.'s claims of Samir's terrorist links, his girlfriend, Chandra (Archie Panjabi) refuses to believe the devoted Muslim man would engage in bombings and intimidation even as the evidence compounds against him. But even her trust in Samir is shaken when a plot against innocent Americans is uncovered and the peaceable follower of Islam becomes the government's number one suspect.
While the events of September 11 cast a pall over Muslims' and their religious beliefs, this film attempts to distinguish the difference between the faithful and the fanatical. In spite of that, this group, for the most part, still comes across as enemies of the state, a dangerously generalized depiction. Worse yet, the film promotes a heightened sense of suspicion by implying that almost anyone could be a terrorist in hiding.
As terrorists and government agents exchange tit-for-tat in the escalating events, the body count grows as characters are shot, thrown in front of a speeding train and brutally beaten or tortured. Audience members will also be assaulted by a rash of expletives (including a strong sexual term), profanities and mild sexual innuendo.
Based on a story written by comedian Steve Martin, Traitor offers nearly two hours of on-the-edge-of-your-seat action. Nevertheless, the industry's appetite for profiting from society's fear of terrorism may leave many viewers feeling like they are the ones being betrayed at the box office.