Monday, February 3, 2020

Movie with Abe: The Traitor

The Traitor
Directed by Marco Bellocchio
January 31, 2020

One of the key reasons that the mafia is able to operate is that its members are aware of a code of silence. Acknowledging its existence means that there are crimes to prosecute and people to go after, and the main rule when those affiliated with this kind of shadow organization are arrested is that they don’t talk. Law enforcement officials and government agents are aware of this, however, and may offer an alluring deal to compel their targets to become cooperating witnesses. The chance to have a clean record and earn protection can look a whole lot better than spending a lifetime behind bars.

Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino) is a high-ranking member of the Sicilian mafia who has served some time in prison and established his own separate business in Brazil, in part as a way to stay far from the violence within the mafia in the early 1980s in Italy. After his two oldest sons disappear and are presumed dead, Buscetta is arrested and remains firm in his resolve not to talk. When a suicide attempt fails before his extradition to Italy, Buscetta decides that he will cooperate with Judge Giovanni Falcone (Fausto Russo Alesi), prompting a large-scale trial with enormous implications for the Cosa Nostra.

It’s been a big year for mob movies, with “The Irishman” offering a peek at real-life events in America around the same time. This film feels distinctly Italian, with particularly entertaining and unbelievable scenes of chaos when many mafiosos are standing angrily and refusing to remain calm in large cells within the giant courtroom. The way in which the justice system works in Italy as portrayed here are also fascinating, namely defendants’ abilities to opt to cross-examine witnesses by speaking directly to them rather than through lawyers. At times, it does feel like a circus, one that explains how such a massive entity like the mafia can continue to function even when the law knows exactly who its members are.

Favino portrays Buscetta as a sympathetic figure, one who isn’t seen perpetrating much violence of his own and instead reflects back upon what he’s done and seen with regret and introspection. Alesi makes Falcone a relatable figure, one who won’t stand stonewalling and truly wishes to see justice served. This film is long, clocking in at two hours and twenty-five minutes, but it has a lot of content to cover, which it does fittingly and formidably. This feels like a trip into the life of Buscetta, a figure who is far from innocent yet, in his own way, sought to atone for his sins. Italy’s official submission for the Best International Feature Oscar is an immersive, arduous biopic that hits at the heart of one of the country’s most well-known secrets.


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