Traitor (2008)
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Traitor (2008)

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One of the most hated crimes a man can commit is to become a traitor. To betray your country and those that have trusted you is considered almost as heinous as murder. Dante reserved the inner most circles of Hell to those that betrayed a sacred trust. If you look at American history one name stands out as a villain from our own ranks; Benedict Arnold. This is an example of the distain held for the name of a traitor. This may seem like a pretty straightforward crime but more times than not the circumstances are murky and full of intrigue. For those that are fans of the espionage genre you are well acquainted wit the concept of double and even triple agents. These are people who pretend to betray their nation or cause in order to gather information for the real side they are true to. From the outside they may look like traitors but they are actually going deep undercover in order to serve those they are apparently betraying. Handled properly this can set the stage for a taut thriller that will fully engage the audience. Fortunately for those out there that are part of that fan base the latest film by Jeffrey Nachmanoff, aptly named ‘Traitor’ is such a success. It is the rare type of film that will keep the audience guessing through the movie. It is not a film to watch casually in the background. It makes demands of the audience that include paying close attention to every scene; each line of dialogue. This is not to say that the movie is all talk. There is sufficient action to keep the blockbuster devotee more than happy. Like most of you I have seen some less than stellar reviews and criticism concerning this movie. While there are some flaws to it overall it is an excellent film that works in its genre and provides mesmerizing performances. The film was released last summer and found itself up against some long awaited action sequels yet it managed to bring in reasonable box office. It offered a thinking person’s alternative to those huge budget flicks then and now that it has come to DVD and Blu-ray it can do the same in your home. It may be rated PG-13 but many of the scenes are too intense for younger members of your audience. The complexity of the story is something that is also best suited for the adults. The release is through Anchor Bay. Many known this studio for championing smaller, independent films but they go for deserving yet overlooked larger films like this as well.

The script was written by Jeffrey Nachmanoff who also directed the movie. The original story came from what many would consider a most unlikely source; comedian Steve Martin. While is comic abilities are among the best of his generation many still remember him as that wild and crazy guy on Saturday Night Live appearing with a fake arrow through his head. He is actually becoming a novelist of serious repute and as also performed as a musician. In short Martin is a true renaissance man and this story is just an example of the variety he is capable of providing. As a writer Nachmanoff has a limited resume but he is certainly posed for great things. In 1993 he wrote a dramatic short film’ The Big Gig’. This was followed by a big budget ecologically themed science fiction movie ‘The Day After Tomorrow’. Since this film is one that has maze like twists and turns it had to be a difficult departure from what he had done before. He was more than up to the challenge. After watching one flick after another with a paper thin plot it was reassuring to see that there are still writers out there who want to carefully construct a story that requires concentration. I had to watch this film a couple of times just to make sure I caught all the nuances it contained. For a suspense film this is rare that even after you go through the entire film and know the ending subsequent viewings can still give you something new.

Nachmanoff does exceedingly well as the director of this film. Previously he helmed the aforementioned short and a light comedy back in 2001. It is obvious that he is not a man who rushes into a project or feels the need to take anything that comes along. He carefully constructs this movie combining style and substance. At times there is almost a documentary feel to the work. The camera is detached from the emotions being portrayed; stepping back to let the amazing actors do what they do best. There are many scenes that employ interesting visuals and some twists with the camera angles but it is far removed from the showing off that many new film school graduates use. Here Nachmanoff demonstrates a precision that is not frequently seen. His visual style reflects and reinforces the many turns of the plot but the camera never overwhelms the characters. He works perfectly with the cinematographer J. Michael Muro. The exotic locations are fully incorporated into the story line. They push the color palette in order to underline the emotion impact of a scene. This ranges from the overly bright yellows in the starkly realistic outdoor sets to more blues used in the inner sanctum of the American Intelligences headquarters. He presents the film like pieces of a large jigsaw puzzle. You get to see some of the pieces before you know exactly where it fits into the overall picture.

When Samir Horn (Don Cheadle) was a boy of twelve he witnessed the bombing that killed his father. IN his adult years Samir becomes an expert in the design and use of explosives; training that in part was provided by the United States Special Forces. Samir was a dual citizen of the States and Yemen both felt somewhat out of place in both countries. His most recent profession is providing explosive to just about any faction that can pay. During a deal he is pulled into a raid and sent to prison. There he meets up with a known and feared terrorist, Fareed (Aly Khan). He tags along during a perfectly planned escape and joins their ranks. FBI agents Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce) and Max Archer (Neal McDonough) are detailed to track terrorist and prevent any possible actions. Samir has been on and off the radar for years and it becomes clear that he is deeply involved. The question arises; ‘who is serving and who is he betraying’.

This film has many excellent performances but none can approach the skill demonstrated by Don Cheadle. He is an incredible actor who made the transition from character actor to leading man recently and the world of cinema is better for the move. He is the kind of actor that blends in so well to his part that you are barely aware that he is performing; you just accept him as his character. Cheadle is able to provide a powerful presentation with an ease that is marvelous to watch. Pearce is able to hold his own in his portion of the film. He is another actor that never seems to get the attention that he deserves.

The film is available through Anchor Bay in both DVD and Blu-ray formats. Both are well done but after comparing them the Blu-ray is simply put incredible. The 1080p video is so clear that it brings you into the scene. The colors are perfect and the contrast the best I have seen in a long while. The Dolby True HD audio is crisp and well defined. All of your speakers will get a work out. There is an interesting commentary track featuring Nachmanoff and Cheadle. Also included are featurettes revolving around the locations and shut work. This is a film that you should no miss.

Posted 11/24/08

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