Comments on watching and making films.

Monday, October 6, 2008


Don Cheadle has been kicking some butt and taking some names lately in the world of filmmaking. Not only has he been a solid part of Soderbergh's Ocean's films, but with roles in films like Talk To Me, Hotel Rwanda, and Crash, and having produced the documentary Darfur Now, Cheadle has been cementing his place, over the last few years, as one of the better, and more thought provoking, actors in Hollywood right now.

With the film Traitor, Cheadle manages to bring home a great performance as an explosives expert who's playing a lot of sides. Cheadle plays Samir Horn, a man who, as a boy, watched his Muslim father be killed in a car bombing. After that, he left the middle east to go live with his mother in Chicago, and upon coming of age, joined the US Army and became a bomb expert, only to drop off the radar and be suspected of selling explosives to terrorists. After being caught in an anti-terrorism raid, Samir is rescued from prison when he befriends a terrorist named Omar. After Omar and Samir escape, Omar invites Samir to join his group, and the two soon begin plotting bombing missions. Samir, though, unbeknownst to ANYONE, is still working for an operative in US Security named Carter (played by Jeff Daniels). 

I love the fact that the filmmakers don't bother trying to make this a "is he/isn't he?" film. For a little while, you think Samir is one thing, then you realize he isn't, but the thing that keeps you interested in the film is the question - How is it all going to play out? Jeffrey Nachmanoff, who's never done anything else I've ever heard of, does a great job in getting you interested in the well being of Samir. Instead of having the film hinge on which side Samir is playing for, it becomes a question of will Samir make it out alive? He keeps building his house of cards higher and higher, and you know, eventually, something's going to give. 

Cheadle's performance in the film is top-notch (not that I would expect anything less from him), and Saiid Taghmaoui (who plays Omar) digs into one of his best roles as well (though I will say that it is getting disappointing to always see him in the role of the Middle Eastern guy, whether it be terrorist or whatever. It just seems like every role I've seen him in, he plays the same type of character). Guy Pearce was a bit of a surprise, I didn't even realize he was in the film, but his straight talking southern baptist FBI agent gave an interesting contrast to Samir's faith and loyalty, while showing that we are all not as different as we thought.

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