Wednesday, May 27, 2009



  • Released Internationally on 27/08/08
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 27/05/09

In a nutshell

In the same vein as the recent Body of Lies, The Kingdom and Syriana, this film offers yet another view into the war on terrorism, by focusing on a handful of individuals and incidents which are clearly an important part of the global picture. The difference here is the positive light shed upon Islam, and the clear message that it is individuals who are the enemies and heroes in this war, not entire religions or nations.

What lies beneath

Samir Horn is a complex character. A devout Muslim, half Sudanese and half-American, he was educated and trained in the USA, and seems to be motivated by the memory of looking on helplessly as his father was killed in a car bomb. After the explosive prologue we first meet the adult Samir as he trades weapons in Yemen, and ends up in a local jail with poor prospects of getting out. Given a lifeline by the FBI, he calmly refuses to cooperate, but eventually manages to get out anyway. Never falling off their suspect list, his involvement in the ensuing terror attacks is often uncertain, and both the FBI and the audience are left guessing what sort of rage lies beneath his cool exterior.

Who’s in it?

The story was originally conceived by Steve Martin, who besides his prolific acting career has also contributed his writing skills to many of his projects including Roxanne, Bowfinger and the recent Pink Panther sequels. He also adapted his own novel, Shopgirl for the screen, and this time around the film owes much to him due to the clever concept of a main character that could easily fit in on either side. His co-writer, Jeffrey Nachmanoff (who also wrote The Day After Tomorrow) got promoted to director during the course of the film’s production, and he delivers the goods with a snappy, engaging and character-driven film. Don Cheadle (Crash, Hotel Rwanda) stars as Samir Horn, and proves to be a handful for the pair of FBI agents portrayed by Guy Pearce (Memento, L.A. Confidential) and Neal McDonough (Desperate Housewives, Flags of our Fathers). His friend and ally in the terrorism underground is Omar (Said Taghmaoui - The Kite Runner, Three Kings) whilst his contact on the other side seems to be Jeff Daniels (The Hours, Good Night and Good Luck).

“The Truth is complicated”

Much like the above-mentioned Body of Lies, a convincing element of the plot is the mixing of scenes from the streets of the Middle East and from the offices of the US with scenes which we outsiders can recognise from the news, thus suggesting a possible back-story for certain events of this decade. And although this particular angle of the story might be a flight of fancy, it tries and often succeeds to skirt around the usual negative image of Islam related to these incidents. Samir’s religious convictions seem to be at odds with his actions, but as events unfold we start to understand whether he is indeed a holy man, or an extremist. But even when his role becomes clearer, the film reserves a few twists for the end and manages to remain entertaining until the credits roll.


Trailer: (High-res QuickTime)

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