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Don Cheadle gives meat to the bones of this thriller.


In Traitor, Don Cheadle plays Samir, a Somalia-born, American-raised Muslim man who---double trouble!---is also a bomb expert, and who is swept up, willingly or not, in a terrorist cell executing bombings across Europe and eventually the US. Cheadle is such a good actor that there is always more to Samir than meets the eye and, this being Hollywood, we can assume our growing sympathy for him isn't for naught. Guy Pearce plays the FBI agent hot on his trail. Pearce conveys such an ease in the skin of a fed that his determined, hard-ass demeanor never comes off as put-on. Traitor's cat-and-mouse game between Cheadle and Pearce is not played against a backdrop of terrorism's implications for average citizens. When it is revealed that certain terrorists are in the US legally on student visas, all foreign students are immediately suspects, but racial profiling and a pissed ACLU are only given passing mention. Broader issues are never fleshed out but, in fairness to writer/director Jeff Nachmanoff, this being a thriller, there is little room for them.

While it's perverse that Hollywood co-opts America's fears of annihilation to sell back to them as entertainment, Traitor is entertaining because it takes the matter seriously. For such a global topic, its story is in a bubble, but I imagine the real men and women working terrorism cases have a similarly narrow vision reserved only to their suspects and their suspects' cohorts.

Traitorportrays this mindset in an authentic and involving way.

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