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New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - THE TRAITOR

the traitor review
The true story of Mafioso turned informant Tommaso Buscetta.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Marco Bellocchio

Starring: Pierfrancesco Favino, Maria Fernanda Cândido, Fabrizio Ferracane, Fausto Russo Alesi, Luigi Lo Cascio

the traitor poster


They say that if you want to learn the history of Russia, you better get a shovel. On the evidence of Marco Bellochio's The Traitor, if you wish to learn the history of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, you better open up an Excel spreadsheet. In its Godfather/Deer Hunter-esque opening sequence, a meeting of two Mafia clans in 1980 Palermo, we're introduced to more characters than you'll have encountered if you ever made it to the end of Tolstoy's 'War and Peace'. At two hours and 30 minutes, The Traitor is by no means the longest movie ever, but it may have set a new record for the script containing the most vowels.

the traitor review


If you choose to watch Bellochio's film in a cinema, good luck keeping track of its cast of characters. If you watch at home on VOD, you'll no doubt find yourself pausing and rewinding in an attempt to figure out who the hell its characters are referring to. Half of the men we're introduced to in that opening segment are killed off 10 minutes later, but their names continue to be spoken for the remainder of the film. Perhaps these men are household names in Sicily, but for the rest of us, trying to keep up with the various internecine developments between Sicily's warring clans is tough going.

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Thankfully, even if you can't keep a hold on The Traitor's dense plot, there are other delights to be found here. The great Italian actor Pierfrancesco Favino - whom you might remember as the crooked politician who likes to urinate from hotel balconies down onto the plebs below in Stefano Sollima's modern gangland masterwork Suburra - plays the titular turncoat, Tommaso Buscetta. He works his way up the ladder of the Cosa Nostra to the point where he can afford to emigrate to Rio with his (third) trophy wife, Maria (the strikingly beautiful Maria Fernanda Cândido), and his kids...well, the ones that haven't been gunned down by his enemies.

the traitor review


Buscetta's past catches up with him when the Brazilian police kick in his door and arrest him on charges of drug smuggling. Not known for their subtlety, the Rio PD beat him to within an inch of his life, but Buscetta refuses to rat out his colleagues. It's only when he's forced to watch Maria dangle from a helicopter that he begins to question his code of honour. Agreeing to turn state's evidence, Buscetta returns to Italy and sets in motion the largest Mafia trial in Italian history.

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The combination of dense plotting and an assumption on the part of a subs bench worth of screenwriters that we have a photographic memory for names flashed up on screen makes The Traitor a patience testing film for long stretches. Yet while it's something of a slog, it's also momentarily captivating, featuring a host of top class performances from some of Italy's best character actors. Favino is immense, and the film is most involving when it pits him against another performer, like the lengthy sequence in which he plays a psychological game of cat and mouse with the prosecuting judge Falcone (Fausto Russo Alesi), whom he grows to respect, or an extended courtroom cross-examination with mobster Pippo Calò (Fabrizio Ferracane). Such scenes play out like mini stage plays, and it's a joy to watch aging actors with such magnificently captivating faces given room to ply their trade so patiently.

the traitor review


Elsewhere, Bellochio relieves the boredom with a few extravagantly staged sequences, like a car bombing filmed from inside the targeted vehicle, the aforementioned helicopter torture and a montage of Mafia hits with a counter that racks the death count up into three figures. There's certainly plenty here to make you sit up in your seat, but unless you have some prior investment in the world and people portrayed here, you might find yourself giving up on trying to keep track of its plot.

The Traitor is in UK cinemas and on VOD now.




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