"The Traitor" a sweeping crime epic

Pierfrancesco Favino appears in a scene from "The Traitor"

"The Traitor" is a sweeping crime epic that gets the audience sucked in with a violent opening act, only to turn into a compelling court room drama.

Anchored by strong work from Pierfrancesco Favino, it's compelling throughout - a story I was unfamiliar with going in, but completely engaged from start to finish.

"The Traitor" is based on the true story of Tommaso Buscetta (Favino), the man in the middle of a war between Sicilian mafia bosses who in the early 1980s opted to become informant after members of the crime family gun down his sons.

Working with a determined judge named Giovanni Falcone (Fausto Russo Alesi) Buscetta sets out to bring down the men responsible for those deaths, while maintaining his dignity and honor.

Director Marco Bellocchio has crafted a 150 minute epic that begins as a competent mafia film in the first half before evolving into an explosive courtroom drama. There are several intense scenes where Buscetta is allowed to face some of his former colleagues, resulting in some intense exchanges that really heighten the drama.

"The Traitor" reminded me a lot of "The Irishman," in the way it is reflective about how this man's decisions ultimately cost his family a chance at a normal life.

Favino is the perfect anchor for this material, asked to remain calm and calculated throughout the chaos. He gives Buscetta a coolness, even as he struggles to be honorable. The fact that the character comes away with some of that honor speaks volumes for how sympathetic Favino truly makes Buscetta.

"The Traitor" does feel a little of the weight of its heightened run time, but there it's worth the audience's patience because it's a film we rarely see any more - a character study that really allows the audience to get to know the character.

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