September 16, 2008

Movie Review: Traitor

In the middle of our world's hard look at the Muslim religion and the Asian world in general, the movie Traitor is just one of many that has come up in the last couple years to focus on the world of Muslim suicide bombers and "terrorists." I have trouble with the word terrorist because it assumes that someone is trying to cause terror. I am not sure this is always true of Muslim extremists, but in the American mindset right now, Muslim often equates terrorist. Or if you say the word terrorist, they are likely to think of those from traditional Muslim countries.

The question this movie prompts in my mind is who does the title refer to? Who is the traitor? Does it refer to Samir, who betrays those who trust him? Is it the men who have twisted the message of Islam to include radical killings? Are they traitors to Islam because they have walked away from the true message? Is it Roy, the American agent who assumes he understands the situation and is hunting down the one man who is actually capable of stopping a crime?

In this movie we meet Samir, whose father was killed in a bombing. Now he builds explosives that he sells under the table to militants. We assume he is a Muslim extremist. He goes to a prison camp and, after a rocky start, is befriended by another Muslim extremist. They escape their prison, and that's when the fun begins.

They linger in a spot, finding recruits and running missions until their location gets tracked down. Then they move onto another place. Wherever they go, they try to blend in with the locals. They are complete in their devotion to the tasks set before them. Samir gives careful training on the mechanics of setting off a bomb in a public place.

Throughout the film Don Cheadle plays Samir like a patriot. He shows little emotion, but he is dedicated to the cause. Only the audience sees how much he sacrifices to stay on this course. This movie was a thinking man's movie. There is lots of action and intense dialogue. But your mind will be spinning. The issues in this film are so relevant to today's culture wars.

The cast is superb. Don Cheadle may get a nomination for this role. Said Taghmaoui certainly deserves a best supporting actor nomination for his role as the captain to the band of militants. So you could enjoy this movie just as a movie. It is entertaining, suspenseful, thought-provoking, and action-packed. But I think we can take it deeper. Movies are signs of our times. What lessons can we learn here? There is a final conversation that ends this movie that leads me to believe this ain't just a movie. This is real-life, and if we want things to change, we need to heed the final words and encourage others to do the same.

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