I must be honest, I spent approximately the first 30 minutes watching and re-watching the newly released THE TRAITOR at home, I was blessed to get a screener from Sony Pictures Classics, but it wasn’t because I was confused. The movie is so detailed from the jump, I needed to make sure my slow subtitle reading self wasn’t missing anything and would be fully prepared for the two hour and 25-minute journey I was about to embark.
But I am glad I paid attention to those early details, because once the real-life players were identified and the action kicked in, a thrilling and tragic tale ensued. The Traitor depicts the true story of Tomasso Buscetta, a soldier for the Palermo alliance of the Cosa Nostra, who turns states witness after the killing of his sons and brother.
The film begins in September 1980, after Buscetta has escaped from an Italian prison after serving eight years and returned to Brazil – in order to flee from the mafia war. After marrying his third wife, Cristina, a young Brazilian with whom he fathers two children, Buscetta is again arrested in a sting by Brazilian police. Severely affected by the executions of those close to him, and in particular by the brutal slayings of his two eldest sons, he attempts suicide by poisoning but is saved and extradited to Italy. Back in Italy and dismayed, he’s interviewed by an anti-mob prosecutor, Judge Giovanni Falcone and goes on to become the first mafia informant in Sicily to collaborate with the judiciary – which leads to the infamous Maxi Trial, where 475 people were subsequently charged.
Because of Buscetta’s testimony, and the considerable risks he took, the trial resulted in 360 convictions – effectively weakening the Cosa Nostra and several affiliations with high-ranking Italian officials.
In your face and, at times, shockingly violent, director Marco Bellochio’s The Traitor is a candid look into one of the most storied periods of mafia history that dares the audience to consider what stand as moral choices and who is capable of making said choices.
It goes without saying that Tomasso Buscetta, also known as the “Boss of Two Worlds” due to his residences after escaping to both the US and Brazil, was a straight up killer. But, he also professed belief that the Cosa Nostra under the new leadership of the Corleone alliance – that was winning the war against the Palermo family – had become an organization that discarded old rules and had therefore become disgraced – an example would be the tragic killing of women and children during the war, which old Cosa Nostra members frowned highly upon.
Pierfrancesco Favino is outstanding in the lead role, portraying Buscetta with a fierceness and humility that is both fearsome and obedient. And with a strong supporting cast, the film is reminiscent of the mob films that were so very popular during my childhood – like The Godfather saga and Once Upon A Time in America – only this is based on a true story.
Besides the quickness of some of the early subtitling – if I were sitting in a theater I would have missed out – I thoroughly enjoyed this film and would highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys a good crime story, especially those who love mafia tales and those who like redemption stories. I rate THE TRAITOR 4 out of 5 on the MMTrometer.
The Traitor is open in theaters nationwide today, February 14 (playing locally at the Ritz Five and AMC Voorhees).
Until next thought, Thomasena