Before Tommaso Buscetta came forward, plenty of people across Italy still saw La Costa Nostra as being somewhat of a myth. After he stepped into the spotlight to expose the secrets of this dangerous organization, their existence became undeniable. At the time, I’d imagine that most people wanted to know why he came forward. They probably know now, but if they don’t The Traitor is hoping to answer that and maybe a few other questions people may have.
Starring as Buscetta in The Traitor is Pierfrancesco Favino. In this film, we get a closer look at why the man who was once known as “The Boss of Two Worlds” decided to come forward. He was once a part of a hectic period when a war between Sicilian mafia bosses over the heroin trade raged on. At the time, he just wanted to leave it all behind and find peace. For someone who had been involved with the mob for as long as he had been, wanting that was understandable. However, as he found out, leaving that type of past behind completely is almost impossible when your ties to that life are so strong.
Nearly all of the movies involving the mafia that I’ve watched have taken place in America and are mostly based on that way of life here. However, The Traitor is different partially because it was developed in Italy and mostly focuses on how things work there. I saw this as possibly having an impact on the overall experience since this also meant that they were probably working with a smaller budget and were more likely to go for something that’s less dramatic in some ways.
With that being my mindset ahead of time, I wasn’t all that surprised with what I actually received. As a film, The Traitor delivers something that’s more grounded than what we usually get from most mainstream American mobster movies. A lot of this has to do with the characters we’re following feeling like actual people who’ve been in this business for decades and have probably become desensitized by the kinds of things that the average person couldn’t stomach.
In spite of its less extreme glimpse into this merciless lifestyle, The Traitor does offer up some violence and savagery. The difference is that it can never be considered to be the focal point of the movie. In virtually every case, the acts of violence are only included when it needs to be. After that, the bloodshed and brutality both fade into the background and only really return when called upon to assist in advancing the story.
A significant portion of this movie takes place behind the scenes and in the courtroom as we gain an understanding behind Buscetta’s decision to expose La Costa Nostra. Most of what we get when these segments of the film arrive on-screen is tight and straight to the point. In my opinion, it fits nicely with everything else and allows the movie to flow better than I thought it would.
I had some reservations concerning The Traitor simply because it’s two and a half hours long. These days, movies this long almost always tend to be slow and drag at some point, but that doesn’t happen here. The reason for that is due to the creators making sure everything keeps moving so that we get to where we need to be when we need to be there.
Since this movie takes place over the course of decades, there’s a lot of stuff to unpack as far as story and events are concerned. Because of this, not much time is wasted. As you watch, you’ll see that there’s always something new or something we need to see in just about every scene. By simply always moving forward, the movie never really feels like it’s going to pause for too long if at all.
While The Traitor is constantly moving forward, it also spends time jumping back and forth to different years to tell its story. This is another aspect of filmmaking that’s oftentimes mishandled, but in this case, this is done well for the most part. I personally found that the changes in time never get confusing even though there are significant jumps being made. Because of this, I doubt you’ll get lost and have to try to figure out where we are in terms of the year and story.
Overall, The Traitor offers its viewers something that’s solid. There isn’t much that stands out here, but it’s a decent watch that effectively says everything that it wants to say. I think most people who see this will feel the same way that I do, but there’s sure to be a number of people who probably won’t be able to give it a passing grade.
I believe that will most likely be because it’s not done in the typical American style that we’re used to seeing. While people like me may appreciate a more tempered and conventional look at life in the mob, some will not. For them, I’m sure they’ll watch this and long for the emotional outbursts and explosive personalities that usually match up with the shootouts, the murders, and all of the other illegal activities that we always get in these movies.
If you’re the type of person who needs the “over the top” style for this kind of movie, The Traitor may not be for you. For others, the grounded approach featuring characters with more stable dispositions won’t be much of an issue. If you fall in the latter category, I’d venture to say that it’s at least worth taking a look at. You won’t be in awe of most of what you witness, but you’ll likely leave satisfied with the film as a whole.
Director: Marco Bellocchio
Maria Fernanda Candido
Luigi Lo Cascio
Fausto Russo Alesi
Film Length: 150 Minutes
Release Date: February 21, 2020 (Wide)
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
- Score - 7/107/10