Like my book reviews site, these are movie reviews I write for entertainment purposes only. These are just my reviews and my opinions. They are not endorsed by Blogger or any movie studios or anyone else. So there. I borrowed my scoring system from the Metacritic site, which does not imply an endorsement from them, although I think they do have a very nice website. I convert the 1-100 scores into 1-4 stars, essentially it works like this:

1 star = 25 points
2 stars = 50 points
3 stars = 75 points
4 stars = 100 points

And then if something falls about halfway between, then I'll give it an added half-star.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Last week I saw "Body of Lies" so it made sense to me to go see "Traitor" when I saw it was playing at the second-run theater at the time I wanted. Both movies feature undercover American agents battling Mideast terrorists who are loosely based on Al-Qaeda.

In the case of "Traitor" the movie has less of the explosions and gunplay of "Body of Lies" but the characters are better drawn. The movie focuses on Samir Horn (Don Cheadle) who grew up in Sudan with his devout Muslim father until 1978 when the father is blown up. When we next see Samir he's in Yemen, peddling bombs to terrorists. That's when Yemeni security, aided by FBI agent Clayton (Guy Pearce, who resurfaces after what seemed like a long exile from mainstream cinema) take Samir into custody along with the terrorist cell's second banana Omar. As both grew up with no home, are devout Muslims, know English, and play chess they become quick friends in prison. Omar stages a jailbreak to free himself and Samir.

From there the chase is on, with Clayton trying to hunt down Samir while Samir is infiltrating deeper into the terrorist organization. He plans a bombing of an American consulate, arms a suicide bomber, and ultimately helps the terrorists with their ultimate plan, which is to create havoc on American soil by employing agents who could be your neighbor, classmate, or bartender.

The question isn't whose side Samir is on--this is revealed about halfway in the movie, or maybe a little less--but how far Samir will go to take down the terrorists. Is he willing to kill innocents for the greater good?

Unlike "Body of Lies" where the love side plot was forced, the love side plot here was badly neglected. Samir had a girl named Chandra but he hasn't seen her in years since he went rogue. She spends more of her screen time talking with Agent Clayton than with Samir. A flashback of how they got together or them being in love might have helped there, but that would have slowed the pace more so.

The movie feels slow at times--I checked my watch a couple times--so I have to say "Body of Lies" has a better pace and more frenetic action. But despite this it's obvious "Traitor" is a better overall movie that cares enough about its characters to give them a little more depth. If you're going to watch just one movie about undercover American agents battling Al-Qaeda knockoffs, make it "Traitor."

(BTW, it's weird in the credits to see Steve Martin's name attached as a writer and producer. And yes it is THAT Steve Martin. But then we always knew he was a wild and crazy guy.)

(My score: 3 stars)
(Metacritic Score: 60)

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