The Traitor, written and directed by Marco Bellocchio, tells the true story of Tommaso Buscetta, the man who brought down the Cosa Nostra.
Back in the 80s, an all-out war raged between Sicilian mafia bosses over the heroin trade. Buscetta, played by Pierfrancisco Favino, flees to hide out in Brazil. He eventually finds out that scores are being settled and rage has been exacted on a myriad of family members, including his sons and his brother. Knowing this type of chaos is taking place in Palermo, there’s no reason for him to leave Brazil.
But that plan was soon foiled after the Brazilian authorities had a warrant to search his home, arrest him, and extradite him back to Italy. Once he made his return, Buscetta did the unthinkable: He decides to meet with Judge Giovanni Falcone (Fausto Russo Alesi). The move would forever change the course of their lives and the betrayal would end up crippling the mafia.
There’s a lot more to this film than your typical mob movie. Unlike films such as The Godfather trilogy or Scarface, we have a front-row seat to a massive story unfolding in The Traitor. Now is there action? Yes. Do you have your run-of-the-mill brutality and drug-related violence? A handful. But does it dominate the film? No, and that’s what’s different about this film when compared to others in the genre. This Italian film with English subtitles shows the highs and lows of what one made could take, his breaking point, and where lines of loyalty would eventually be drawn.
Immediately, you could conclude that The Traitor would imply that the main character of said film was a rat, snitch, or a turncoat, and that could be true. But the best part about the film is that there’s so much to the story that the subject matter is deeper than the question, “Is he a traitor?” We learn of an interesting family dynamic, loyalty within his family, and how the hand he was dealt was not by his own actions, but a reaction to greed and arrogance.
I give The Traitor an 8.5 out of 10. The runtime is two hours-plus and you’ll be craving more every minute. There are a few slow points and that might lead to annoyance keeping up with the subtitles, but the drama is neverending and the suspense is prevalent.
Photo (cover): Left to Right: Goffredo Bruno as STEFANO BONTADE, Pierfrancesco Favino as TOMMASO BUSCETTA, Fabrizio Ferracane as PIPPO CALÒ, Maria Fernanda Cândido as CRISTINA in THE TRAITOR. © Lia Pasqualino. Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics.