In the early 1980’s, an all out war rages between 'Sicilian' mafia bosses over the heroin trade. Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino), a made man, flees to hide out in Brazil. Back home, scores are being settled and Buscetta watches from afar as his sons and brother are killed in Palermo, knowing he may be next. Arrested and extradited to Italy by 'The Brazilian' police, Buscetta makes a decision that will change everything for 'The Mafia'. He decides to meet with Judge Giovanni Falcone (Fausto Russo Alesi) and betray the eternal vow he made to 'The Cosa Nostra'.
Tommaso Buscetta is fickle and constantly on the move, both in his life and in personal relationships. He’s out of the ordinary, intelligent, charming, effective and endowed with natural authority. A mafioso loyal to 'The Cosa Nostra', but also to his own personal principles, he’s not afraid of challenging authority. From the end of 'The 1970s' to the start of 'The 1980s', he faces the growing strength of 'The Corleonesi', headed by the uncompromising Totò Riina (Nicola Calì). This new small group has no mercy and flouts the basic principles of 'The Cosa Nostra'; they kill women and children and eliminate whatever gets in their way. This group holds no place for Tommaso Buscetta. When in 1982 he moves to Rio de Janeiro with his beloved wife and children, he aims to end his involvement with 'The Mafia'. But there’s no such thing as leaving 'The Mafia', the organization hunts him down. However, 'The Brazilian' police beat them to it and extradite him to Italy. Buscetta then proposes a deal to 'The Italian' judiciary. He’ll cooperate and dismantle 'The Mafia' in exchange for his own protection and survival. He’s soon confronted with the imposing, inflexible and tenacious Judge Giovanni Falcone, and we’re plunged into the depths of 'The Sicilian' organization; murders, shoot-outs and scams. All this provides the backdrop to Buscetta’s account, who turns out to be 'The Cosa Nostra’s' biggest mystery; no one knows why he’s collaborating. He seems motivated by revenge and the desire to dismantle a mafia no longer in line with his values. Buscetta is a traitor for deserting to the enemy, but he doesn’t see himself that way. In the course of his confessions, he highlights the gulf that exists between his mafia and that of 'The Corleonesi'. He intends to do justice to the true 'Cosa Nostra' in this way.
Tommaso Buscetta, also known as 'Don Masino', is a fascinating character who left an indelible mark on the history of the fight against 'The Mafia'. Born in Palermo in 1921, the youngest of a poor family with 17 children, he marries early and has two sons by the age of 16. He embarks on a career of crime in 1945 and soon demonstrated his skills, rapidly climbing the hierarchy of 'The Cosa Nostra'. In 1963, pursued by 'The Italian' judiciary, he flees first to 'The United States', then to Brazil. This earns him the nickname 'The Boss Of Two Worlds'. But Buscetta’s empire is to collapse. He's arrested by 'The Brazilian' police, then imprisoned and tortured in Italy. In 1980, he manages to escape from prison and returns to Brazil in order to flee from 'The Mafia War'. After marrying his third wife, Cristina (Maria Fernanda Candido), a young Brazilian with whom he has two children, Buscetta is again arrested by 'The Brazilian' police. Deeply affected by the executions of those close to him, and in particular by the brutal murder of his two eldest sons, he tries to commit suicide by poisoning himself. But his life is narrowly saved and he's extradited to Italy. Once back in Italy, he makes a decision that would change both his life and 'The Mafia".
He meets Judge Falcone and collaborates with the judiciary. The information which Buscetta provides 'The Italian' authorities is the most important ever obtained. For the first time, it's possible to weaken 'The Cosa Nostra'. 475 people are charged and 'The Maxi Trial' takes place in Palermo. Buscetta is the key witness and takes the stand at considerable risk. He makes 'The Cosa Nostra' his enemy and, despite the danger, held firm to his course of action. The criminal organization murdered two of his children, further members of his family and friends. The trial ends with 360 convictions. Buscetta then goes further and denounces the links between 'The Mafia' and Italian politicians. Don Masino’s revelations incriminated powerful men like Giulio Andreotti (Bruno Cariello), a former prime minister. To secure his own peace and anonymity, he moves first to Brazil, then to 'The United States', where he spent the rest of his life under 'The US Witness Protection Program'. Buscetta’s greatest victory, however, lay in his demise: after a life full of murder and the settling of scores, he's able to live his final days in peace, finally dying of cancer in 2000.
Maria Cristina De Almeida Guimaraes is Buscetta’s third and final wife, as well as the mother of his youngest children. She's Brazilian and much younger than him. Passionate, strong, clear-headed and always present, she's very different from the regular mafiosi wives who lived in their husband's shadows. Cristina is active, intelligent and autonomous, she's a keystone in Buscetta’s life and played a crucial role in his decision to betray 'The Mafia'. Salvatore Riina, born on November 16th, 1930, in Corleone, also known as 'Totò Riina', is nicknamed 'Totò u Curtu' in 'Sicilian' dialect because of his shortness (158 cm) and 'La Belva' ('The Beast') due to his ferocity. Totò is one of the most influential members of 'The Sicilian Mafia'. In the course of his criminal career, he personally murdered approximately 40 people and is suspected of having ordered the killing of 110 others. During 'The 1980s' and in the early 1990s, Riina and his mafioso family, 'The Corleonesi', led a merciless campaign of violence against both rival mobsters and 'The Italian State'. 'The Mafia’s' terror spread within the population and caused the authorities to introduce strict measures, which led to the arrest and imprisonment of Riina and several of his associates in 1993. Sentenced to life in prison, he dies of cancer in 2017 after word of his possible release on health grounds provoked public outrage.
Salvatore Contorno (Luigi London Cascio), known as 'Totuccio Contorno' is a former mafia soldier under the command of Stefano Bontade (Goffredo Bruno). He later becomes a witness in 'The Maxi Trial'. Contorno is initiated into 'The Cosa Nostra' in 1975. He's one of Bontade’s favorite hitmen and is also associated with Tommaso Buscetta. During 'The Mafia War', 'The Corleonesi' want to eliminate Contorno, but he's able to escape and protect his family. He decides to collaborate with 'The Italian' authorities, following Buscetta’s example. 'Pippo Calò' (Fabrizio Ferracane), whose real name is Giuseppe Calò, is born on September 30th, 1931, in Palermo, Sicily. He's a very influential member of 'The Cosa Nostra' and is nicknamed 'The Mafia’s Cashier' because of his involvement in a number of money laundering cases. A very close friend of Tommaso Buscetta, he nevertheless chose to support the latter’s principle rival Totò Riina at the start of 'The 1980s'. After several years on the run, he's arrested on March 30th, 1985, and tries in 'Palermo’s Maxi Trial' for money laundering, associating with 'The Mafia', murder and racketeering. He receives two life sentences. He remains an active member of 'The Cosa Nostra' even in jail, where he lives a life of luxury and less influential inmates are his servants. Pippo Calò’s crimes include the bombing of 'The Naples-Milan' train in 1984, which killed 15 people and injured 116.
Giovanni Salvatore Augusto Falcone, born in Palermo May 18th, 1939, and murdered May 23rd, 1992, in Capaci, is an Italian judge committed to fighting 'The Mafia'. His assassination is ordered by Totò Riina, head of 'The Corleonesi' clan. Falcone comes to prominence in 1984 when he takes the testimony of one of 'The Cosa Nostra’s' most important informers, Tommaso Buscetta, known as 'Don Masino'. On the basis of this testimony, Falcone opens 'The Maxi Trial' in Palermo in 1986. Palermo’s criminal court isn’t large enough to accommodate the 475 accused who are to stand trial, so a courtroom known as 'The bunker' is created. Falcone asks for additional resources to pursue the fight against 'The Mafia', but decisions aren't immediately forthcoming. Giovanni Falcone becomes a hero and an icon throughout Italy. He also becomes the number one enemy and main target of 'The Cosa Nostra'. The police escort provision isn’t enough to protect Giovanni Falcone. On May 23rd, 1992, he's murdered by 'The Cosa Nostra' in what's known as 'The Capaci Massacre'.
"The Traitor" is more the story of Tommaso Buscetta than of 'The Cosa Nostra". Betrayal is a recurrent theme tirelessly explored in film, precisely because it makes us reflect on change. Can a man truly and profoundly change in the course of his life or is it just a pretense? Is change a way of healing, of repenting? Did Buscetta, who refuses the label of informer all his life, embark on this process of healing, of redemption, to become a new man? Or did he create his own justice? In the past, 'The Cosa Nostra' had nothing to do with the perverse entity that it's today. Buscetta collaborates with 'The State' to prevent others from believing in the dignity and honor of 'Fhe Cosa Nostra'. These values have been buried under a mountain of innocent victims.