“Traitor” Movie Review: Big Buzz Marketing Undermines Message

I had high expectations for the movie “Traitor” and, unfortunately, felt more than a bit let down. The film follows Samir Horn (played by Don Cheadle) as a devout Muslim with a storied past; born in Sudan, trained by the U.S. military, fought with the mujahideen in Afghanistan, turned explosives runner around the world, and eventually rises the ranks of a high profile terrorist network plotting attacks against U.S. interests abroad and, eventually, closer to home. Throughout the story, Horn’s story evokes a number of issues: Western prejudice toward Islam, racial profiling, U.S. empire building, and misunderstandings and ignorance on both sides.

In an interview on NPR, Cheadle explains how he reconciles the serious issues of the film with its summer-blockbuster-action-film marketing efforts, saying “movies like this, I always want to smuggle in those kinds of ideas. We don’t have to lead with them, but I like it when people can walk out of the theater with something to talk about.”

Shame on Cheadle

I agree. And I think the more people who can be introduced to a dialogue that I believe is crucial to our foreign policy, then all the better. Then I saw this YouTube clip. (It’s too shameless to embed). In it, Cheadle presents a parody of the movie (aired on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show) where his stunt double, an overweight mustachioed Latino, receives the brunt of the abuse during Cheadle’s interrogation scene. This may get more folks in the door, but it trivializes an important scene in the film.

What do you think?

Am I being too hard on Cheadle? The movie’s marketing efforts? Cheadle turns in a great performance, no doubt, and the film provides a great launch pad for some serious issues. Am I being too harsh?

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