Featuring a huge cast of characters, the ambitious and breathtakingTraffic is a tapestry of three separate stories woven together by a common theme: the war on drugs. In Ohio, there's the newly appointed government drug cz... more »ar (Michael Douglas) who realizes after he's accepted the job that he may have gotten into a no-win situation. Not only that, his teenage daughter (Erika Christensen) is herself quietly developing a nasty addiction problem. In San Diego, a drug kingpin (Steven Bauer) is arrested on information provided by an informant (Miguel Ferrer) who was nabbed by two undercover detectives (Don Cheadle and Luis Guzmán). The kingpin's wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones), heretofore ignorant of where her husband's wealth comes from, gets a crash course in the drug business and its nasty side effects. And south of the border, a Mexican cop (Benicio Del Toro) finds himself caught between both his home country and the U.S., as corrupt government officials duke it out with the drug cartel for control of trafficking various drugs back and forth across the border. Bold in scope, Traffic showcases Steven Soderbergh at the top of his game, directing a peerless ensemble cast in a gritty, multifaceted tale that will captivate you from beginning to end. Utilizing the no-frills techniques of the Dogme 95 school, Soderbergh enhances his hand-held filming with imaginative editing and film-stock manipulation that eerily captures the atmosphere of each location: a washed-out, grainy Mexico; a blue and chilly Ohio; and a sleek, sun-dappled San Diego. But Traffic is more than a film-school exercise. Soderbergh and screenwriter Stephen Gaghan (adapting the British TV miniseries Traffik to the U.S.) seamlessly weave the threads of each separate plotline into one solid tale, with the actions of one plot having quiet repercussions on the other two. And if you needed more proof that Soderbergh takes unparalleled care with his actors, practically all the members of this cast turn in their best work ever, the standout being an Oscar-worthy Del Toro as the conflicted moral conscience of the film. While no story is fully resolved in the film, you'll be haunted by these characters days after you've seen the film. By far one of the best movies of 2000. --Mark Englehart« less
Chuck B. (ChuckB4Me) from WENTZVILLE, MO Reviewed on 11/20/2014...
Nice from the point of view where we are shown all the different people in all the different stages of an illegal transaction. However it did seem to drag on a little bit too much.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Powerful Drama, Important Film
Reviewer | 02/25/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To say that this is a film with a message would be an understatement, because it comes across so emphatically clear and succinct, and it is this: To wage a war against drugs, you must first come to terms with the sobering fact that the enemy is often a member of your own family; and how do you wage a war against your own family? A sobering message? Insightful? Indeed. And, when you consider the implications of it all, devastating. Ponder that awhile and you'll begin to get a sense of the futility visited upon those who would attempt to rectify a situation that affects practically everyone everywhere sooner or later, either directly or indirectly; and it is just that situation that is addressed and presented with no-holds-barred by director Steven Soderbergh in his brilliant, hard hitting film, "Traffic," starring Michael Douglas and Benicio Del Toro. The film examines the trafficking of drugs between Mexico and the United States, and the long-ranging effects thereof; and Soderbergh tells the story through a number of perspectives, which effectively presents the "big picture" of the drug trade and the subsequent impact it all has on the lives of so many people. Probably the most telling perspective in terms of futility is that which is shown through the eyes of Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas), a judge who is appointed the country's "Drug Czar," and given the task of "making a difference." It's a pivotal character inasmuch as it is through his involvement that so much information is presented, not all of which is anything new, but when taken within the context of the story has a tremendous emotional impact. Through Wakefield, not only is the unbelievably far-reaching problem of illegal drugs illuminated, but the attitudes of all of those it touches on all levels, from the heads of the Mexican cartels to the kids who use and abuse the product made so readily available to them by the drug lords. A man of principle and high ideals, Wakefield begins by educating and familiarizing himself with all facets of the drug trade. He quickly learns that although he is far from naive in terms of the reality of what he is dealing with, he actually has no concept of the depth and scope of it, like how much better equipped and financed the cartels are than the U.S. Government, for instance. Another troubling aspect of the story involving Wakefield is the lack of respect accorded him by the young people with whom he comes into contact, not only in his official position, but simply as a human being-- especially by his own sixteen-year-old daughter and her "friends." Unfortunately, it realistically reflects an attitude prevalent within a wide faction of our society today; and it's one of the strengths of the film that it can so succinctly capture something so distressing, something that should be of monumental concern to everyone, for it's an integral part of a larger something that touches us all. Also realistically portrayed is Wakefield's reaction to all of this; the helplessness born of the limited ways of combating what he encounters is extremely well realized and conveyed by the film, and it enhances even more that already overpowering sense of futility. From the Mexican side of the border, the story unfolds through the perspective of Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez (Benicio Del Toro), a veteran of the Mexican Highway Patrol; and it's from his side of the fence that we begin to understand the ramifications of the politics, money and power, and ruthlessness that so empowers the cartels. In these segments, the dialogue is in Spanish (with English subtitles), and Soderbergh uses a tint to the film that lends a visual sense of detachment to the action; it's almost like watching an old newsreel, which gives it an air of authenticity that works because it's incorporated with the emotional substance that ultimately provides the real impact. The superlative cast Soderbergh assembled for this film includes Don Cheadle, Luis Guzman, Dennis Quaid, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Steven Bauer, Jacob Vargas, Erika Christensen, Miguel Ferrer, Amy Irving, Tomas Milian and James Brolin. An important film of gut-wrenching implications and staggering emotional proportions, "Traffic" evokes a sense of futility and loss (especially in the final scenes) that is, at times, overwhelming. It makes you realize just how huge the drug trafficking trade is, and how any efforts to eliminate or even contain it simply pale in the light of it's enormity. It's like a terminal cancer, spreading and eating away at the fabric of our society; a disease that reduces the value of human life to the barest minimum. It's a movie that will affect everyone on a different level emotionally, depending somewhat upon personal experience and frame of reference, but there is no doubt that this is a film that will create a lasting impression on anyone who sees it; but be prepared, for this is powerful drama that elicits a sense of hopelessness which-- I'm sure for many-- may hit just a bit too close to home for comfort."
A Movie that Tops the Rest
Victor Drysel | TX | 01/15/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Traffic gives us a very disturbing yet equally true story about what happens to real people in the fight for war on drugs. Traffic tells three stories. About two DEA agents, Don Chealde and Luis Guzman, that are out to stop the "Big Rich Guys" at the to of the food chain. Two Mexican Police Officers that happen upon a large shipment of illegal drugs, Benicio Del Torro. And a newly appointed government official, Michael Douglas, that is there to clean up what his predecessor couldn't do. WIth that said, we are left to director Steven Soderbergh. With his brilliant usage of color and contrast. And his equally astounding talent of editing and shooting this home videoesque film. I was dumbfounded by the sheer tenactiy of the story. So gritty and captivating. It really tells people what they don't want to hear. With such a fabulous cast as this: Michael Douglas, Benicio Del Torro (who should recieve an oscar nomination), Don Chealde, Catherine Zeta Jones, Dennis Quaid, Selma Hyaek, Benjamin Bratt, and Luis Guzman, you can't make a bad movie. So, take my advice and watch this film. It's really that good."
Edward | San Francisco | 04/03/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"2000 was a good year for director Steven Soderbergh. First was the entertaining "Erin Brockovich", then the tense, complicated, well-acted "Traffic", which was probably the best movie of last year and which won Soderbergh the Oscar for Best Director. The plot is constructed of five interlinking sets of people: a newly appointed American drug czar and his family, the Mexican drug cartel, two Tiajuana plainclothes men, a couple of U.S. wiretap specialists, and a wealthy San Diego family whose fortune is a little less than legitimate. Michael Douglas is the star, playing the drug czar who discovers that his teenage daughter (Erika Christensen) has been inhaling free base and is hooked. Don Cheadle and Luis Guzman are nicely paired as the eavesdroppers, and Steven Bauer and Catherine Zeta-Jones play the San Diego couple whose lives collapse when an informer names the husband as a leading importer=exporter of illegal drugs. Dennis Quaid,who gets over-the-title billing, is convincing in a small, unsympathetic role as their opportunistic lawyer. Ms Zeta-Jones' character is the most controversial, morphing from suburban mom to Lady Macbeth right before our eyes. But, of course, most of the attention has been focused on Benicio Del Toro as Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez, the Mexican cop whose loyalties are constantly being challenged. He deservedly won the Oscar, though in the wrong category. Because his character both opens and ends the story, and because he has (I think) more screen time than Douglas, he should have been nominated for Best Actor. Some of the movie's plot elements, particularly in the second half, don't work. The informer is obviously poisoned by a breakfast that is brought to him while his police escort is in the room. Why would they allow a stranger to serve food to a heavily-protected state witness? (The informer is played by Miguel Ferrer, the son of Jose Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney.) Also, I didn't believe the drug czar's aborted acceptance speech for a minute, and his daughter's return from the dead was too pat and painless. But the quiet conclusion, with Javier watching a baseball game, was effective, proving that Stephen Gaghan's screenplay (another Oscar) didn't need a bang-up ending to complete a forceful story."
Traffic Is A Winner
Thomas Magnum | NJ, USA | 06/14/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Steven Soderbergh has crafted a visually stunning, deeply moving and intensely brilliant movie in Traffic. The central focus of the film is the drug epidemic in the US and Mexico. He tells three separate stories that are each distinct unto themselves, yet interwoven into a common thread. One story takes place in Mexico and revolves around a cop with a conscious (Benecio Del Toro), the second story takes place in Ohio and Washington and involves the country's new drug czar (Michael Douglas) and the troubles he faces on the job and with his daughter (Ericka Christiansen) who freebases cocaine and descends into a drug addicted hell and the third story takes place in San Diego and involves DEA agents (Don Cheadle & Luis Guzman) trying to take down a big drug trafficker (Stephen Bauer) whose wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) learns the drug trade while he's detained. The film sounds unwielding, but Mr. Soderbergh deftly maneuvers from story to story and you find yourself engrossed in the lives of these characters. Each story is shot in a different style with the Mexico scenes being bright but grainy, the Ohio & Washington scenes in a moody indigo and the San Diego scenes in a sunny, vivid illumination. The cast is full of amazing performances with Mr. Del Toro standing out as the Mexican cop. Most of his dialogue is in Spanish, but it is his expressions that speak volumes. When the camera focuses in on his face, he conveys a sense of a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Mr. Del Toro won a well deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 2000. Miguel Ferrer is superb as a key witness in the San Diego case who bristles at the DEA agents and offers a chilling description of the drug situation in the country. Mr. Cheadle is fiery as a DEA agent and Mr. Douglas perfectly portrays a man who is trying fight a national war on drugs but is losing a battle at home. Ms. Christiansen is amazing and her descent into complete addiction is frightenly real. The cast is expansive and includes such stars as Albert Finney, Dennis Quaid, Benjamin Bratt, Selma Hayek and Topher Grace in addition to the others. Mr. Soderbergh had a great 2000 with Traffic and Erin Brockovich and he became the first director in sixty years to be nominated for two movies in the same year and he won the Best Director award for this film."
Incredibly rich and provocative story with a very important
Angela Bynum | 07/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Steven Soderbergh's Traffic is, in my opinion, a well put-together masterpiece. It is a film that truly shows off the talent of its director and its stars in a completely interesting way. The acting is top-notch (be sure to look for Don Cheadle and Louis Guzman as two DEA agents and Steven Bauer as a California drug lord) and the cinematography is excellent. I would easily recommend Traffic to anyone interested in learning how to make a movie. 5 Stars"