“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?

The One Second Film parks outside Harpo Studios

If you haven’t heard of the “One Second Film,” I recommend checking it out.

The film consists of 24 frames (1 second) of 12 different pieces of art, created by hundreds of artists.

To become a “producer,” you donate $1 to the group. (All of the proceeds are then given to charity).

And it’s being hyped as the largest collaborative art project ever. (Almost 10,000 producers in more than 50 countries).

The core group of organizers have trekked all the way to Chicago and parked outside Harpo to see if they can’t get Oprah to sign on. I wish them the best.

Here’s the Intro:

What I think is interesting… is the degree to which collaboration pervades the essence of their movement, right down to the the marketing and promotion of the event. It appears completely decentralized. And, with the exception of the 1 second film and the artwork, everything is licensed under the Creative Commons License.

I’d like to get down there to Harpo and check it out.