Traitor shows flashes of being something greater than just an average spy thriller, but doesn't quite get there. Co-stars Guy Pearce and Don Cheadle bring dynamic and believable conviction to this chase film's cat and mouse. The film attempts—and mostly succeeds—to discuss big topics about faith, war and worldview. And the filmmakers' bold decision to center a movie on a devout black Muslim creates one of modern Hollywood's most serious, nuanced, and refreshing portrayals of committed, daily faith.
However, most of this is undone by forced plot twists, head-scratching jumps in logic and a plan by the hero that would sound great in a seventh grade short story but could never work out in real life.
Whereas the film may have had hopes to be in the neighborhood of The Fugitive, The Bourne Identity or Spy Games, writing gaffes make it yet another forgettable thriller that's not nearly as fast-moving, action-intensive, or hard-hitting as the ad campaign has portrayed it. It's actually a talk-intensive drama that builds its mystery by presenting a cloudy narrative: Who is Samir Horn (Cheadle)?
We first see a young Samir in 1978 as he watches his father, a respected Islam religious figure, killed by a car bombing. Flashing to the present, Samir seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time as Yemen forces, led by FBI agent Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce), take down a terrorist cell linked to several suicide bombings. In a forced and somewhat confusing plot development, Samir's deep and devout faith attracts the attention of fundamentalist terrorist Omar (Saï d Taghmaoui). Before Samir knows it, they're out of prison and Omar reveals a plan for a devastating attack on U.S. soil. All the while, Clayton is right on the tail ...1