Just got back from watching Traitor, a new espionage flick starring Don Cheadle. Despite knowing almost nothing about this movie going into it (it kinda snuck up on us, didn't it?), Traitor already had two things going for it on the interesting meter: 1) The story concept was conceived (at least partly) by comedian/actor Steve Martin; and 2) Don Cheadle gets to carry the movie almost all by himself -- AND get his Bourne Identity on, to boot!
Anyway, despite a fairly obvious plotline that was easy to figure out in the first 5 minutes -- and even despite being a 2-hour long pale imitation of Fox's "24" -- I actually found the film enjoyable. What saves it is the absolutely great characterization of Cheadle's African muslim character, Samir Horn, and a truly exceptional performance handed in by Saïd Taghmaoui, who some may recognize from Showtime's hit show, "Sleeper Cell" (also about terrorists -- hmmm).
In fact, the character arc written for Taghmaoui's role, Omar, is perhaps some of the most impressive writing I've seen for an Arab muslim character in a hollywood movie. He's not some cookie-cutter terrorist, but neither is he neutered or apologetic. He goes from being someone you just despise at the start of the film, to being someone you sort of respect in the middle, and then someone you actually sympathize with by the final act. That's a tall order for a character who is a staunch Jihadist.
Ultimately, Traitor worked well despite the transparency of its "twist," which not only speaks to the tightness of the script, but more importantly to the performances of both Cheadle and Taghmaoui. The supporting cast also turns in nicely nuanced roles; most notably Guy Pearce as FBI agent Roy Clayton, and Jeff Daniels (say what?) as Horn's CIA handler, Carter.
A pretty decent post-blockbuster season offering.