The Traitor

The Traitor (il traditore) 2019 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Director: Marco Bellocchio. Cast: Pierfrancesco FavinoMaria Fernanda CândidoFabrizio Ferracane, Fausto Russo Alesi, Luigi Lo Cascio,Nicola Calì

It took me a while to actually settle down and appreciate this film and eventually like it. The first act are probably the most conventional, squeezing in “the greatest hits” from any other Mafia related movies we’ve already seen hundreds of times. It seems to add nothing to the genre (though arguably very little has been added since the 70s with the godfather)An unlikeable main character, going through the motions, with cliche dialogue, over-the-top direction, ultra-violence and cheesy Italian mandolino playing in the background. I was ready to dismiss it. And then, at the 40 minutes mark, the story actually find its groove and the real film begins: a deep multi-layered character study of the “rat” Tommaso Buscetta, a high ranking man within the Cosa Nostra ladder, whose key testimonies between 1986 and 1992 would lead to a total of 366 convictions in one of the largest Mafia trial in history. It is an uneven film which works best when it plays it simple and tries to be as real as possible. Most of the scenes during the chaotic trials are gripping, absurdly hilarious and equally spooky, but also the quietest scenes are mostly beautifully handled too (thanks to a towering performance by veteran Favino, who here speaks Italian, Sicilian, English and Brazilian and it brings gravitas to the role like few people can and he alone manages to lift the film from the average a 3 stars film to the edge of a four stars one!). Unfortunately at times director Bellocchio let himself carried away a bit too much by the excitement about making his film look needlessly stylish and “modern” and when he tries to be too flashy, that’s when he falls: the counter on the screen, the intercutting between the big mafia boss being cornered by the police and a trapped animal (was it a lynx? Anyway talking about subtlety.) are some of the most over-the-top examples (though I have to say the POV inside the car exploding was quite something… even if a bit tasteless).

Not all performances are quite as believable to Favino’s, but that may have something to do with the fact that Sicilians seem like bad actors in their day-to-day lives anyway. Eventually the film ends up doing pretty much what Scorsese’s The Irishman did (though with a couple of hours to spare) and somehow it managed too grip me.

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