- Steven Soderbergh
- Reviewed by
- a.k.a. Jacinda
- Review date
- Saturday, February 03, 2001
It is almost impossible to explain how brilliantly Traffic combines several different perspectives in one amazing plot. Soderbergh shows the world of drugs from all sides in episodes devoted to his main characters. The movie starts with sequences in Mexico where a police officer (Benicio Del Toro) shows how to survive in a corrupt system bought by drug dealers. In the US there’s judge Wakefield (Michael Douglas) who wants to make a change in the world when he is assigned to fight the war on drugs. He doesn’t know about his own daughter’s (Erike Christensen) drug addiction yet. Moreover two cops (Don Cheadle, Luis Guzmán) arrest a drug dealer (Miguel Ferrer) that is going to testify against one of Mexico’s druglords. Helena Ayala (Catherine Zeta-Jones), pregnant wife of a rich businessman, finds out about her husband pushing drugs when he gets arrested by the FBI. At some point or the other these people’s fates come together and in the end Traffic is a brave kaleidoscope of the real world.
Soderbergh’s movie involves some visually stunning ideas. The warm yellow colors used in the scenes in Mexico in contrast to the cold blue of the governmental part in the US make a great difference. Soderbergh’s hand-held cameras and the fact that he chose to have Mexicans speak Spanish makes the movie feel authentic. At times it even feels close to a documentary.
Every single cast member of Traffic is brilliant but Benicio Del Toro definitely gives the best performance. I was amazed to see that he won a dozen important awards but I wonder why he was named supporting actor as he has as much screen time as Douglas. Del Toro is terrific as a cop who knows how to please the right people at the right occasions. He seems to know exactly what to do to make the system work but in the end he has to face the fact that he can’t make a difference. Michael Douglas‘ character evolves from a judge driven by idealism to a broken man who tries to save his family but has to face his defeat. Catherine Zeta-Jones‘ character, at first innocent, turns into a ruthless businesswoman. There are also great cameos by Salma Hayek, Benjamin Bratt and Albert Finney.
I could go on talking for hours about the perfect way of creating the characters, the perfect way of portraying them and the perfect way of combining all of them in one plot. Steven Gaghan deserves all recognition there is for the screenplay. But let’s not forget about the statement the movie gives. I have never seen a movie dealing with the drug issue that is as honest as Traffic. Without compromises the movie tells how the system works. It doesn’t give excuses as it is so common in Hollywood.
Traffic is imaginative, engaging, thrilling, brilliant, true to the facts and a movie that can’t be compared to anything else on this subject matter. See it and love it!
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Other reviews of Traffic (2000): Morris