The Traitor (2019)

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Food: Westville is a convenient option whether you are going for a quick lunch or if you want a hearty dinner. They exist all throughout the city, and the options are unique and savory. I prefer to get the “market vegetable” order which is $7 per item, and can be combined or added to other dishes for flexibility. My favorite combination is getting the garlic mashed potatoes with the green peas and bacon bits. If you are dining in, they have developed a farm fresh, open air atmosphere at all of their restaurants, which is pleasant.

Film: “The Traitor” is Marco Bellocchio’s most recent film, the true story about the man behind the disintegration of the Cosa Nostra, an incredibly organized version of the “Mafia” that existed in Italy up until the late 1900’s. During the 1980’s a full-fledged war erupts between Sicilian mafia-bosses over the heroine trade, which marks the beginning of the end.

The film starts by showcasing an elaborate party encompassed by glistening dresses and baroque architecture, where we get an immediate (and much too quick) demonstration of the family units that exist within the Cosa Nostra during a peaceful time. Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino) is the forefront character, and we see him dragging his heroine zonked son from the beach back inside, scolding him and scowling about his antics. There is dancing and a group photo. Using textual overlay, we get names of each integral person in this group, and then the film jumps immediately into an uproarious killing spree.

Using a ticking countdown that is pinned at the bottom left of the screen, we see each character getting “wacked” one after another, including Buscetta’s young adult sons, Benedetto and Antonio Buscetta. During this tumultuous time in Italy, Tommaso Buschetta watches from afar, along with his wife (the beautiful and glamorous Maria Fernanda Cândido), and younger children who all escaped to Brazil to hide out. Eventually, after his arrest, he is extradited back to Italy, where he is questioned by Judge Giovanni Falcone (Fausto Russo Alesi) and makes the decision to betray the vows he made to the Cosa Nostra.

The two hour and twenty minute film jam-packs a series of private interviews and depositions, interspersed with scenes from his days in prison, or conversations with his trustees or family members. The most effective moments in “The Traitor” are found when the film foregoes the historical record for the emotional stories that help the audience to better understand the foundation of this organized mob and their principles. The seemingly unspoken rules of loyalty that are relied upon between the members of the Cosa Nostra are crucial to its’ eventual decline because Buscetta’s decision to speak out against it was due to the strongly held belief that the other members had dishonored its’ foundation first.

Due to the highly interesting content, I would love to see more of this, but not in this manner. It would make an interesting mini-series, each one forty-five minutes, where pieces of the story could be more thoroughly fleshed out. If staying within the film space, the focus needed to shift from the historical proceedings and spend more time developing the characters and the family dynamics. Through discussions much later on, it becomes clear that there was once a lot of warmth and community within the Cosa Nostra gang, but that is lost on viewers when it is spoken about as opposed to shown. A film like this requires the audience to be fully invested in the weight of the protagonists’ decisions and the incredible burden of losing these relationships, but “The Traitor” fails to develop this aspect, and, therefore, the integral scenes in the film read more like a chronicle of events than an evocative drama.

The material is enticing, salacious, and informative. However, sadly, it is more boring than any of those things. “The Traitor” is a lively biopic that has some amusing moments, but is overlong and flattened by the redundant courtroom theatrics.

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