SPOILER ALERT: This post contains views on the movie 'Traitor' featuring Don Cheadle, (the guy in Hotel Rwanda) and Guy Pearce (from Memento). Watch the movie if you haven't yet and then return to this post.

Hollywood throws up some true gems from time to time. And while many of the great movies get deserved acclaim, there are also several that slip through the cracks. This movie is one such.

The film's theme is terrorism and the role of religion in it. Given the theme, I, quite frankly, expected it to serve up a lot of cliches and stereotypes packaged in clever camera work and jazzy special effects. And the first few scenes did nothing to change my view. But gradually and unexpectedly, as the story built up around the main character 'Samir' (Cheadle), a black American Muslim involved with terrorists, it began to delve deeper into the motivations of a terrorist and what a truly religious man is ready to believe and commit. And though he blows up a building that kills civilians, we find it difficult to label him as completely evil.

On the other side of the story is FBI agent Clayton (Pearce) who's hunting terrorists and is on Samir's tracks. As it turns out, he too is a man of religion and that perspective is crucial in his making the right decisions and doing his job.

The script is taut with dramatic events following each other breathlessly, each raising the stakes and making extreme demands on the conscience of the characters. It all builds upto to a tense climax with a satisfying conclusion.

The high point of the movie comes right at the end of the last scene, when all has been said and done, Clayton shakes Samir's hand with the greeting 'Salaam Alaikum'. Samir shakes it and notes wryly that Clayton should have begun with that. The symbolism employed is poetic and the interpretation powerful. Clayton, with all his respect for religion and due to the events that unfold in the movie, is able to finally reconcile the conflict between religion and terrorism. Samir, meanwhile, is trying to tell him that Clayton (and in extension, all efforts to tackle terrorism) should have started his mission with that understanding.

The movie doesn't fall into the trap of painting a stark black & white image of a situation that is inherently gray at best. Avoiding Muslim bashing was good in itself, but placing a devout Muslim as the hero in the battle against terrorism is worthy of genuine applause. Add to that a message of understanding and reconciliation, subtly conveyed through a crisp script and backed by brilliant performances, this movie comes up trumps on several different levels.


  1. I like the symbolic interpretation of the last scene. Didin't quite think of that myself when I watched it.

    "Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loves not transgressors." Chapter 2, Verse 190


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