Traitor: Don Cheadle Turns to the Dark Side

Opens at Guild 45 and Lincoln Square, Wed., Aug. 27. Rated PG-13. 114 minutes. In its well-written first hour, Jeffrey Nachmanoff's thriller hops across continents, nimbly juxtaposing terror-cell intrigue with moments of self-reflection from FBI men and bad guys alike. Traitor's man on the run is Samir Horn (Don Cheadle), an American-born mercenary who at age 9 witnessed his Sudanese Muslim father being blown to bits in a Middle Eastern car-bomb explosion. The culprits are unknown, but years later Samir is in Yemen, selling Semtex explosives to jihadists. Samir has a tendency to stare off into the distance—a Cheadle specialty—mulling over, perhaps, his time as a U.S. Special Forces soldier, a job (and a country) that he turned his back on after a tour of duty in Afghanistan led him to become an Islamic fundamentalist. The movie's first hour is well done, but realism and insight go out the window as soon as Samir crosses the U.S. border—oh so easily—to set in motion one last big terror plot, a plan that actually calls to mind the scheme from Don Siegel's far superior 1977 thriller Telefon, in which a rogue KGB agent travels across America activating deep-cover Russian agents. Nachmanoff has devised a nifty last-minute twist to the concept, but he appears to take little pleasure in the telling—almost as though he's embarrassed to be having fun with a subject as serious as terror. Creating an ingenious mad bomber isn't quite the thrill it used to be.

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