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Heroes of the Zeroes: Traitor

by on November 4, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.


Rated PG-13

Crossing the “Bourne” films’ geopolitical savvy with “24’s” ticking-clock terrorism adrenaline, 2008’s “Traitor” smartly tackled xenophobia, extremist theology and “holy” war’s conflicting dichotomy.

Writer-director Jeffrey Nachmanoff’s thriller about a multiethnic man encouraged to find unilateral revenge in religion-influenced terrorism prefers the intrigue of where ideologies lead to any globetrotting trail.

Surprisingly, Steve Martin (yes, that one) created this story. In a decade of wild and crazy fictional terrorism, his was the most horrifyingly plausible — one “24” never would’ve neared and which spins terrorism as drama into uncomfortable community theater, striking the country’s friendliest corners.

Samir Horn (Don Cheadle) is a Sudanese-American Muslim and former U.S. Special Forces engineer — a man of conflicting religious convictions who’s without a country.

He may be a sleeper agent working against a terrorist cell … or maybe just a terrorist rejecting jihad’s combustible translation of sacred scripture to make a retaliatory statement.

Unlike Evelyn Salt, Samir’s loyalties aren’t delineated from the get-go. He detonates bombs in terrorism’s name, but to what endgame or enablement? And as Samir’s relentlessly pursued by G-man Guy Pearce’s (a worthy Gerard to Samir’s Kimble), Cheadle lets shame and subterfuge propel this performance — a lit-fuse soldier who’s learned too many lessons from too many explosive devices.

In “Traitor,” convictions of jihadists and justice-seekers are considered and clouded — God and country coagulated as pieces of faith are violently Frankensteined together. Capped by an awesome narrative twist, “Traitor” knows the true threat is everyone remaining convinced that God is cheering only for them.

Bad trailer. Too many spoilers. Even the YouTube screengrab is a spoiler. Geez.