The Traitor (Il Traditore)
Starring Pierfrancesco Favino, Maria Fernanda Candido, Fabrizio Ferracane, Luigi Lo Cascio, Fausto Russo Alesi, Nicola Calì
Family is at the center of Marco Bellocchio’s film, “The Traitor.” In the opening scene, a family is celebrating in front of the house while crime family leaders are meeting in the back. “The Traitor” chronicles Tomasso Buscetta’s, struggle to protect his family from the crime family he has become disillusioned with. A struggle that ultimately leads to him becoming the highest-ranking mob boss ever to inform against the mafia. Winner of the 2019 Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, this intense, heartfelt drama is likely to be Italy’s entry for next year’s foreign film awards.
Sicily was not a safe place for Mafiosi in the early 1980s. Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino), looking to escape the escalating gang war for control of the heroin trade, moves to Brazil. Leaving behind two sons and the rest of his family, He starts a new family with his Brazilian bride. Eventually, the gang war in Sicilly reaches him in South America, and Buscetta discovers that his two sons have disappeared. Feeling betrayed by the new Cosa Nostra’s abandonment of the old ways, Buscetta agrees to testify against his former associates. With Buscetta’s testimony, Judge Giovanni Falcone (Fausto Russo Alesi) has an opportunity to deal a heavy blow to the mob.
"Bellocchio co-wrote the screenplay that skips along the surface of these men’s lives, never diving into the deeper motives."
This story could have been a tale of two men Buscetta and Falcone. Both men put their life and the lives of their families at risk to go against the mafia. Buscetta’s story climaxes when he testifies against hundreds of his former associates. His story thins out after that and the film pivots for a time to Falcone, before returning to Buscetta at the end. Bellocchio co-wrote the screenplay that skips along the surface of these men’s lives, never diving into the deeper motives. Buscetta leaves his Italian children behind when he moves to Brazil, including one son with a substance abuse problem. Buscetta leaves him and the others behind nevertheless and we never find out why. Other recent biopics (last year’s “El Angel” for one) have been able to show breadth and depth more fully.
Visually “The Traitor” captures the look and feel of the time as the story shifts between Europe and the Americas. Vladan Radovic’s (“Black Souls“) cinematography captures color and mood in a way that puts you in every scene. There are two especially magnetic scenes of Buscetta on an airplane and later when he is in prison. Buscetta’s sympathetic exchange between his former best friend as they testify against each other is perhaps the film’s best scene.
An intense, heartfelt real-life story of a high-ranking mob boss turned informant.