August 28, 2008

Review: The Only Thrill in ‘Traitor’ is Knowing When This Film is Over

By Tom Long

What's worse than a thriller with no thrills? A thriller that puts you to sleep.

Flat and just plain boring most of the time, "Traitor" wastes some fine actors -- Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Jeff Daniels and Said Taghmaoui -- and a topical story, finding no sparks in what should be an incendiary tale of terrorism.

This is one of those films where it's hard to pinpoint what doesn't work, simply because everything doesn't work. And the blame has to fall on writer-director Jeffrey Nachmanoff.

Cheadle plays Samir Horn, a Muslim CIA agent working deep undercover, infiltrating a terrorist organization that is planning an attack on America. Pearce is an FBI agent who believes Horn actually is a terrorist and is out to get him. Daniels plays Horn's CIA contact, the only person who knows the truth about his mission.

All of which is fine, if dangerously similar to the story line of Showtime's "Sleeper Cell." True, Americans haven't exactly been begging for movies about the Middle East or terrorism lately, but the premise is still valid enough.

The execution, however, is numbing, Nachmanoff just can't muster any momentum, even as he moves from shootouts to bloody prison confrontations to bombings and the attack on American soil.

It's not that he doesn't make you believe all of this is possible, he just doesn't make you care that any of it might be happening.

From the music (washed-out, low-volume variations of the "Bourne" soundtracks) to the acting (has Guy Pearce even been in a movie this bad before?) to the movie's conclusion, which manages to be incongruously explosive and dull, nothing clicks.

The only thrill here is the ending credits letting you know you can leave.'TRAITOR'

D-- STARRING: Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Jeff Daniels, Said Taghmaoui -- DIRECTOR: Jeffrey Nachmanoff-- RATED: PG-13 for intense violent sequences, thematic material and brief language-- WHERE: Bay Area wide-- RUNNING TIME: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Originally published by Tom Long, MediaNews staff.

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