“Traitor” is the kind of movie so many of us yearn to see: It’s intense and intelligent, has something to say without being pedantic and presents complicated issues without condescending. It even boasts a solid cast, led by Don Cheadle (who’s also a producer) and including Guy Pearce and Jeff Daniels.

So why does “Traitor” feel more than a bit off?

Writer-director Jeffrey Nachmanoff takes this tale of terrorism and espionage, based on idea from Steve Martin, and runs with it all over the world, from Sudan and Yemen to Chicago and Washington to London and Marseilles.

And yet by the end, with its much-ballyhooed twist, the whole endeavor leaves you feeling more drained than enlightened. Perhaps because “Traitor” aims to be equal parts explosive action and serious-minded character drama, it never completely hits the mark in either regard. As pure entertainment, it’s too dry; as a heady dissection of world affairs, it’s too shallow.

But through Cheadle’s Samir Horn, “Traitor” does take the admirable step of trying to understand and explain the philosophy of Islamic extremism. Samir is a former U.S. special operations officer whose Muslim faith has led him into terrorist activity. Pearce co-stars as the FBI agent trying to track him down, even as bombings around the world continue to create chaos and carnage.

Daniels has a few strong scenes as a CIA agent who knows more than he lets on to his government cronies. And Cheadle is, of course, as smart and subtle as ever.

Rated: PG-13 for intense violent sequences, thematic material and brief language. Running time: 112 minutes. Rating: 2 out of 4 stars.


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