Before the war on terror, America had been fighting a war on drugs, south of its border, for decades. As is aptly demonstrated in this Oscar-winning version of the UK mini-series of the same name, the results were comparable in cost and effectiveness.
What keeps this intense film skipping along so effectively is its constant shifting, from the washed-out grime of the Mexican-US border, to the stiff, blue-tinted corridors of power.
"No One Gets Away Clean"
Traffic is a gripping and powerful drama about not only the war on drugs, but also about how those drugs effect the ones around us. Steven Soderbergh's direction is fantastic and he no doubt deserved that Best Director Oscar he won for this. Nothing is lacking in Traffic. It is extremely well written, acted and shot. It has unique elements like the different filters used to show the war in different locations. The cast is simply amazing. These aren't just big names appearing in a movie for the hell of it; they are all on top of their game.
The standouts to me are Benicio Del Toro(Best Supporting Actor), the always awesome and overlooked Don Cheadle, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Benicio Del Toro plays a Mexican cop who is fighting the war on drugs from that angle. Don Cheadle plays an American cop who is also fighting that war on drugs. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays a wife of a big time dealer who was arrested and is now on trial. This is one of the few times I have really have loved a performance from her. She's never bad, but seldom is she this good. Michael Douglas is the major player with the war. He has just been anointed as "the czar" when it comes to this war. Not to long after becoming czar, he learns that his daughter is on drugs. The daughter is also played extremely well by Erika Christensen, which is something I never thought I would say; I'm not a big fan. But she has some key scenes that are intense and powerful and she pulls them off every single time. She is extremely believable in every emotional situation.
The movie is a smart, thought provoking look at drugs. It's told from different angles. We see how the war is fought with the cops and also with government officials. We see the addicts and the filthy lives they lead, in order to keep their habit. We see the big time dealers. We see the families that are effected. It's all extremely powerful stuff; more so then any film on drugs that I have ever seen.
What the movie isn't is a fun movie. It's slow in parts and it's long. It isn't all action, all the time. What it is an extremely well made and intelligent movie that brings a subject to light that is hard to know a lot about. All we can know about it is what we are told. If we don't live it, we don't know it. This is about as close as you can be to knowing about it, without being effected by it. Traffic is a unique and terrific movie that really is a must watch.
Robert Wakefield: If there is a war on drugs, then many of our family members are the enemy. And I don't know how you wage war on your own family.
A conservative judge is appointed by the President to spearhead America's escalating war against drugs, only to discover that his teenage daughter is an addict.
Traffic is a bleak look at what goes on in the drug trade across the US/Mexican border. We see all aspects of how the process of drug smuggling happens from the people who get it across the border to the corrupt police and army, to the way it affects the kids on the street. This is quite a frank and somewhat depressing view of the modern day drugs trade. The direction is superb as is the acting. Every time we are over the Mexican border, the film is shot in sepia and every time we are with another set of people they have a different way the film is shot. Sometimes they cross paths. I'm not sure the Mexican part of the film was meant not to have subtitles but my DVD didn't, so I had to fathom out what was going on without knowing the language. I think I did quite well! Benicio Del Toro and Don Cheadle put on the best performances. The only thing that lets the film down is the story, although fascinating, is hardly edge of the seat stuff.