It sure took a long time for this film to debut here, and if memory serves me right, it took almost a year, and the DVD has already been released. If not for a press screening already held, I would have thought that the film would be one of those that are difficult to pass by the censors and required some lengthy debate as to the merits for its theatrical release. That's because it deals with the current topic of terrorism in an unflinching manner, with the hijacking of religion to further the terrorists' extremist and violent ends being told in a style yet unseen from films such as The Kingdom, Syriana, The Siege and Body of Lies, to name but a few films dealing with the topic.
I am a keen admirer of Don Cheadle's film performance, especially in dramatic roles, and here he plays Samir Horn, a devout Muslim and US citizen caught up in a web of intrigue and international terrorism acts. We see how he employs his skills of bomb-making, honed from his US Special Operations days as an officer, and seemingly looks like a rogue, US domestic terrorist aiding foreign groups in their operations to harm the world. But there's more than meets the eye to Samir, and here's where Cheadle excels in putting that level of ambiguity into a role that raises moral questions about doing something for the “greater good”, no matter the costs.
Chasing him around the world are FBI counter-terrorism agents Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce) and Max Archer (Neal McDonough), who are clearly like fish out of water when operating outside their legal jurisdictions. Unfortunately for the two actors, their roles here as the downright good guys are always a step or two behind the terrorist cells, which in some ways mirror that in real life. Without good intelligence, you're always reactive, and it takes a lot to be on top of the game, especially when tactics employed are normally innovatively discharged. We get to see a number of “no-brainer” tactics that the cells employ which are effective if you think about it, which makes it all the more dangerous should they be used because they actually can be.
But the most dangerous game to be playing from the side of the good guys, is the refusal to share intelligence or to combine resource, drawing lines in the sand and setting up turfs. The bickering between agencies all point to missing out on the bigger picture on one hand, while on the other the need for confidentiality also brings up operational sensitivity in order not to jeopardise any current missions, and this need to know service also stems from being overly cautious of any internal moles that would betray efforts in progress. In some ways, this is like Infernal Affairs being played all over again.
I suppose that without the balanced view and very verbatim statements made toward the end renouncing violence and misguided teachings, this film would probably not be given the green light. But it did, and presented a very though provoking thinking man's action thriller set in this age of cloak and dagger terrorism. Sure it has some loopholes and the unnecessary (and unavoidable) collateral damage, but watch this for the performance all round and an engaging storyline that might not keep you guessing all the way once the cat is out of the bag, but does enough.