A conservative judge is appointed by the President to spearhead America's escalating war against drugs, only to discover that his teenage daughter is a crack addict. Two DEA agents protect an informant. A jailed drug baron's wife attempts to carry on the family business.
An intertwined drama about the United States' war on drugs, seen through the eyes of a once conservative judge, now newly-appointed drug czar, his heroin-addicted daughter, two DEA agents, a jailed drug kingpin's wife, and a Mexican cop who begins to question his boss's motives.
On the first day of production of Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989) - Steven Soderbergh's first film - the producers of that movie sent a telegram to Soderbergh. They teased him good-naturedly, telling him they'd heard reports he "couldn't direct traffic". Twelve years later, Soderbergh won an Oscar - for directing "Traffic". See more »
When Arnie Metzger shows up at Helena Ayala's house, at one point he quickly turns around and points to her. Clearly his mouth movements do not match up with the dialog. See more »
Home video versions released in 2001 omit direct reference to Cincinnati Country Day school, after school officials complained about the images depicted of the student body. In the scene where Caroline is being interrogated after her arrest, the theatrical version has her answering the question "Are you in school?" with "Cincinnati Country Day." On home video, she simply answers, "yes." The camera is behind her, so her mouth isn't seen on-screen, but there is a notable pause before the next bit of dialogue. See more »
Traffic delivers a powerful message with impeccable flair.
Early in the year 2000, director Steven Soderbergh's film, Erin Brokovich, sizzled at the box office (bringing in over $130 million) while receiving critical acclaim. Now, with the release of his latest film, Traffic, Soderbergh stands to earn Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Picture for both of these movies. It's no wonder, either, as Traffic is one of the most gripping films to hit theatres in 2000.
Traffic takes on the complex issues involved with the war on drugs in the United States and Mexico from the view of these nations as a whole to the very personal level. In the film, three stories unfold to illustrate the near impossibility of ever stopping the drug trade, despite the billion dollars that the US spends each year for just that cause. While the tales are related, the characters rarely, if ever, cross paths with one another. This is one of the elements that allows Soderbergh to deliver his message so effectively.
The first story features Benicio Del Toro as Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez. A cop in Baja, Mexico, he enforces the law and allows the wheels to be greased from time to time. After pulling off a huge drug bust on the Juarez drug cartel, the powerful General Salazar swoops in to confiscate all of the drugs and the credit. Later, Javier and his partner are recruited by Salazar to fight the war on drugs by aiding him in bringing down the Obregon cartel that has plagued Tijuana for some time.
Meanwhile, back in the States, Judge Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas) of the Ohio Supreme Court is about to be appointed by the President as the nation's new leader in the drug war. For the judge, the drug war is about to become more personal than he could ever have imagined.
In San Diego, Monty (Don Cheadle) and Ray (Luis Guzman) are two federal agents perpetrating a drug bust on a slimy drug supplier named Eduardo Ruiz (Miguel Ferrer). The events that follow lead them up the drug food chain to Carlos Ayala, a well-to-do suburban man who has been smuggling illegal drugs into the country from Mexico. His arrest leaves his pregnant wife, Helena (Katherine Zeta-Jones, who was really pregnant during the film), to fend for herself while taking care of their son, court costs, and a $3 million dollar debt to the drug lords in Mexico.
Traffic, written by Simon Moore (the writer for the British miniseries, Traffik, upon which this script is based), is superbly crafted and woven. We learn just enough about each character to give us some insight into their motives for the courses they choose to follow. By the films end, matters are not neatly wrapped up; there is not a fairy tale ending. This simply adds to the realism of the issues presented within the movie. Furthermore, the intertwining stories drive home the fact that drugs are closer to you than you think.
The script is bolstered by the phenomenal, ensemble cast. Zeta-Jones and Del Toro have both received Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actress and Actor in a drama for their roles in this film. Don Cheadle is superb in his role. Michael Douglas gives his usual performance while Erika Christensen does a good job as his daughter. Topher Grace (of TV's That 70's Show) is excellent as her upper-class, druggie boyfriend. Dennis Quid's character, while played adequately, is underused.
The stories were shot using various filters and lenses, neatly separating them as the film went from one to another and adding to the viewing pleasure of the movie. Mexico is filmed through a hand held camera and yellow lens to give it a dry, grainy, shaky look that heightens the feel of unrest involved with Del Toro's situation. Douglas' story is initially filmed in a hue of solemn, comforting blue. Zeta-Jones' story is filmed without the use of lenses, suggesting that her situation and actions are the most realistic and achievable of all those presented.
Despite some dialogue that spouts off statistics and seems a bit preachy, Traffic ranks among the top ten films of 2000, surpassing even Soderbergh's other venture, Erin Brokovich. Don't be surprised if this film picks up the Oscar for Best Picture.
By film's end, the message is clear and powerful. The fight against drugs is a long, uphill battle, but it is better than no battle at all.
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