Biography Crime

Divorcing the Mob: A TIFF Review of ‘The Traitor’

September 15, 2019Ferdosa Abdi

Marco Bellocchio's The Traitor tells the tale of Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino), the man who brought down the Italian mafia. Once a boss of respected stature within the Cosa Nostra, Buscetta turned informant because of what the Cosa Nostra became after the introduction of drug trafficking.

A handsomely crafted crime-thriller with an ever-present feeling of danger looming over it, this is a riveting drama when the inner workings of the Cosa Nostra are explored, but it is rather slow and muddled otherwise. Partway through the film when the mafia crosses one too many lines, the story becomes an engaging courtroom drama complete with colorful characters and surprising reveals; but the best part of the movie takes place after Buscetta begins interacting with Italian prosecutor Giovanni Falcone (Fausto Russo Alesi). Before that, the narrative can't quite overcome poor plotting and erratic editing that cuts into necessary character-building.

At its strongest when it focuses on the nature of the Cosa Nostra, The Traitor is ambitious and engaging. While the uneven first-half ultimately fails to give the second half impact, however, strong performances from the entire cast and the aesthetic of the overall film really do salvage the experience.

The Traitor makes its North American premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 30 min.

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