Though it's less stylish than Steven Soderbergh's big-screen version, the original miniseries Traffik displays more nuance and detail than the shorter, star-laden Oscar-winning remake. Writer Simon Moore's expansive script... more » takes in more layers of the drug trade -- from the journalists who cover it and the dirt-poor farmers whose labor powers it to the street dealers who are far more prevalent than the preppie thrill-seekers of Soderbergh's version. Although the film is shot in a naturalistic palette, Traffik is not without a certain visual flair; the sequences set in Pakistan in particular introduce viewers forcefully to the mixture of beauty and squalor that serves as a backdrop to the genesis of narcotics production. Traffic does little to question the moral rightness of the American "war on drugs," but Traffik, by highlighting the economic and cultural realities of the developing world, paints a less cut-and-dry portrait of this international phenomenon. Bill Paterson's Jack Lithgow proves a less familiar, more human protagonist than Michael Douglas' grand standing drug czar, while Linda Bassett gets more to work with than Amy Irving does in the part of the government official's wife. All of the principals, in fact, acquit themselves admirably even when the writing reveals its television origins. It doesn't have the sparkle of a Hollywood showpiece, but in its place we get a script with a lot more gray areas, and a glimpse at the drug trade half a world away from our own backyard. In fact, the European and South Asian settings guarantee that Traffik will seem fresh even to rabid fans of the celebrated Traffic. ~ Brian J. Dillard, All Movie Guide« less
Watched this years ago, and much of it really stuck in my head. Subsequently have watched this several times more now. Originally aired on Masterpiece Theatre in 1990. Bill Paterson's character is a Scottish Home Office minister who has been busy combatting illegal heroin trade (a big problem in Britain back then.) Work strikes close to home when his daughter (a young Julia Ormond) gets addicted. His life takes a big roller coaster ride trying to locate her and then when he does, how to handle the whole withdrawal scenario.
His work has become quite personal all of the sudden. He takes a trip to Pakistan to try to really wrap his head around what is really going on. This is where this miniseries shines. The surreal lives of the poppy growers are revealed in depth. There are some gut wrenching scenes throughout. The score is haunting. After all his Eastern experiences, and figuring out the routes the drugs are taking back home, Paterson gives a rather striking speech at series' end which is very thought provoking.
Soderbergh's movie "Traffic" was inspired by this series. And then there was a 2004 American series based on both the movie and original series, which was also pretty good. Overall, this original series is vastly superior to the others.
Far outshines the film
Charlotte Vale-Allen | CT USA | 06/09/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Traffik is one of the most memorable viewing experiences I've ever had. Not only does it give a very clear view of the economic necessity that is the driving force in the lives of the people who cultivate the poppy fields, but it also gives sharply focused insights into how ill-informed politicians make hay on a hot-potato issue. It's only when the effects of drug abuse come home--to Bill Paterson, the splendid Scottish actor who plays a member of parliament whose daughter falls victim to addiction, and to Lindsay Duncan, the wife of the importer--that we see the lengths people will go to, for all sorts of reasons, to engage in the traffic, going one way or the other. Duncan is extraordinary in this series; her transformation from innocent wife to determined conspirator is stunning. This, the original Traffik, makes the film version look small and choppy and incoherent. Benicio Del Toro's performance in the film is, without doubt, a fine one. But when it takes a viewer at least half the movie to figure out who the good and bad guys are, you've wasted a lot of time. Traffik doesn't waste a single frame. It's a breathtaking ride from start to finish and leaves the film version in the dust.If you saw the movie and thought it was okay, see the TV series and you'll see something great. Years after the fact, there are scenes in the mini-series that will come back to haunt you. This is a profoundly affecting, deeply compelling drama."
Region 1 release = 3 stars. Region 2 release = 5 stars.
John | London, UK | 04/15/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Nothing much to add, apart from saying that the region 2 release has been superbly produced, so if you want to avoid the poor US market adaptation and have a multi region player, purchase the region 2 version from Amazon UK.It was really dumb to change the original subtitling to dubbing.If you can take it raw, watch Traffik. If you can't, watch the movie."
Definitely better than the Hollywood production
Hamood Rehman | Houston, TX United States | 07/04/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I was one of the few people in the world who watched this mini-series before the Hollywood production. I must admit the Hollywood version was excellent as well, considering the fact that it didn't have time to build up on characters. This miniseries is one of the most gripping and well-made productions ever. Although it is six hours long, you don't feel that it is and don't even remember looking at the clock while watching it. The lengths at which the production team has gone through to make sure everything looks authentic is admirable. This mini-series was filmed at a time when Pakistan was struggling with its poppy production. I'm glad to say that Pakistan has successfully rooted out the poppy cultivation within its borders, thanks to efforts made by this movie and the like. However, Afghanistan has more than made up for the loss.
Overall, an excellent movie, except for a few overdone scenes, especially the last dramatic climactic scene."
Traffik or Traffic
Timothy J Perior | Northridge, CA United States | 01/23/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am a Los Angeles writer and filmmaker that was eager to see the style and magnitude of Traffic when it was released. I found it tragic, powerful and well made with reservations toward the characterization of Michael Douglas and Julia Ormond. I was completely unaware of Traffik. Sometime later Traffik was released (or re-released) on PBS and I sat amazed at the identical plots and characters except I knew I was watching the original and so far superior I was astonished that Traffic dared show its face. On the night of the Academy awards all from Traffic received their awards lauding one another and not a mention of the creative source from which they had drawn...and quartered."
From a time when C4 produced quality television...
B. Farrell | Dublin, Rep. of Ireland | 04/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Traffik" written by Simon Moore and directed by Alastair Reid is a milestone in recent British television history. It is a beautifully crafted and terrifying vision of the international drugs trade and the effect this trade has on different individuals. It destroys the myth from a Western European viewpoint that heroin begins and ends its life in areas of urban decay and dislocation and gives us an unemotional snapshot of the whole process of its production.
Steven Soderbergh's US adaptation was always going to fail to reach the heights of its British counterpart (although it was a highly worthy effort), and an issue and narrative of this scale needed six hours (at least) to give it gravitas. Each character in "Traffik" is well developed and expertly played: Bill Patterson's Jack Lithgow, the stubborn drugs czar who fails to comprehend the problem he is tasked with solving while simultaneously watching his college educated daughter (Julia Ormond) slip further into heroin addiction; Lindsay Duncan as a drug importer's wife who plays the Lady Macbeth role much more effectively than Catherine Zeta Jones in "Traffic"; Jamal Shah as Fazal, opium farmer turned heroin producer and the closest thing the audience has to having it's conscience openly voiced; Fritz Muller Scherz's single minded Hamburg cop, out to bust the suppliers and dealers no matter what the cost.
One of the main strengths of this mini series is that in never uses too many quick emotional taglines. The viewer is sucked into the storyline of each character and is constantly forced to re-assess their previous assumptions. Fazal is a particularly good example of this. By the final episode we finally see Moore and Reid create some brilliantly gut wrenching moments: Fazal's vengeance for his wife's death against his drug lord patron (Tallat Hussain) via a heroin filled syringe and Jack's final fall and redemption give the series a depth the US version could only aspire to.
The other strengths of the series are too numerous to mention. Aside from the main characters there is excellent support from Linda Bassett, George Kukura, Tilo Pruckner and for my money, Ronan Vibert as Caroline's (Julia Ormaond) drug supplier, Lee.
On the technical front, scenes in Hamburg and London are filtered in a cold cyan while those in Pakistan are given a warm ochre only helping to underline the claustrophobia of the slums and mansions of Karachi and the general corruption that permeates them. Add to this a brilliantly evocative soundtrack you have one of the best drama series to be produced in Britain in many years."