Traitor, The (2019)

The 80-year-old Bellocchio’s history-based Mafia-cum-courtroom biopic boasts a strong lead performance despite the fairly conventional narrative structure.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Dir. Marco Bellocchio
2019 | Italy | Biography/Crime/Drama | 153 mins | 1.85:1 | Italian, Sicilian, Portuguese & English
M18 (passed clean) for violence, sexual content, language and brief graphic nudity

Cast: Pierfrancesco Favino, Luigi Lo Cascio, Fausto Russo Alesi
Plot: The real life story of Tommaso Buscetta, the first mafia informant in Sicily in the 1980s.
Awards: Nom. for Palme d’Or (Cannes)
International Sales: The Match Factory

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – History, Mafia, Justice
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: The Projector Plus – Italian Film Festival
Spoilers: No

Marco Bellocchio is one of Italy’s oldest working filmmakers, but at 80 years old, he shows no signs of retiring anytime soon with The Traitor, which competed at the Cannes Film Festival last year. 

Based on the fascinating history of the Cosa Nostra, more popularly known as the Sicilian Mafia, as it is brought to its knees by Tommaso Buscetta, the first-ever informant who in the film’s lengthy courtroom sequences, reveals some of his criminal organisation’s darkest secrets. 

Played by Pierfrancesco Favino, whose strong lead performance very much eases us through a rather lengthy film (at 150 mins!), Buscetta finds himself at the crossroads of political and legal quagmire when he is arrested and deported back to Italy from Brazil in the 1980s. 

“The mafia is not invincible, it had a beginning, it will have an end.”

Labelled a traitor (a mild term considering the verbal abuse hurled at him) by many in the Cosa Nostra, most of all the top bosses, some of whom would face possible life sentences for their involvement in murder, torture and drugs. 

To Bellocchio’s credit, The Traitor is involving despite the fairly conventional narrative structure, though it helps being interested in the subject matter in the first place. 

While the film doesn’t really add much to the cinematic conversation as far as crime and courtroom dramas are concerned, there is a sense that The Traitor is also not meant to be taken too seriously, with Bellocchio content to make as appealing a film as possible for the widest possible arthouse audience. 

Buscetta’s struggles and fears are put to the test, as well as his love for his family, as an entire nation holds its breath over the fate of some of the worst men in their modern history.

Grade: B+



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