REVIEW: TRAFFIC

CAST

Michael Douglas (Wall Street)
Amy Irving (Alias)
Benicio del Toro (Sin City)
Erika Christensen (Swimfan)
Topher Grace (That 70s Show)
James Brolin (The Amityville Horror)
Jacob Vargas (Get Shorty)
Albert Finney (The Bourne Legacy)
Catherine Zeta Jones (Entrapment)
Dennis Quaid (Jaws 3)
Clifton Collins Jr. (The Bad Pack)
Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2 & 3)
Luis Guzman (McBain)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Peter Riegert (The Mask)
Benjamin Bratt (Demolition Man)
Viola Davis (Suicide Squad)
Salma Hayek (Ugly Betty)
Emilio Rivera (Venom)
Michael O’Neill (Transformers)
Majandra Delfino (Roswell)
Rena Sofer (Heroes)
John Slattery (Iron Man 2)
Jack Conley (Angel)
Harsh Nayyar (Gandhi)

a Steven Soderbergh Traffic Michael Douglas DVD Review PDVD_004

Scripted by Stephen Gaghan, Traffic is adapted from the famous British miniseries Traffik and takes a hard look at the illegal drug trade from multiple perspectives. All sides of the issue are explored via a series of intersecting storylines. On the front lines, a Mexican cop (Benicio Del Toro) witnesses the rampant government corruption that facilitates the smuggling of drugs across the U.S. border. In the halls of American power, a politically ambitious judge (Michael Douglas) is picked as the new Drug Tsar and quickly runs into obstacles implementing new policies.

In fact, even the judge’s own daughter (Erika Christensen) and her privileged rich kid friends experiment with freebasing and begin the downward spiral of addiction. In the netherworld between these two extremes, a DEA agent (Don Cheadle) in California attempts to take down a drug running ring but finds the effort futile; even if he succeeds all he’s done is clear the way for new competition to move in. Meanwhile, a society wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) whose husband is indicted on trafficking charges is forced into taking over his smuggling racket to pay their debts and protect her family.

The movie has a huge cast of other recognizable faces (Dennis Quaid, Albert Finney, Luis Guzman, Amy Irving, and Miguel Ferrer among others), but it’s Del Toro who stands out in a star-making turn; he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor but actually carries a big chunk of the movie and proves he can be an effective leading man. The story has an ambitious reach and a complicated structure. Soderbergh juggles all these elements with masterful control, maintaining a steady tone that emphasizes the tragedy of the situation without overstepping into preachiness, overwrought theatrics, or heavy-handed sermonizing. The movie asks many questions but is frank that it can deliver no answers. It takes no political stance either for or against our government’s policies other than to point out that they clearly aren’t working. The war on drugs is a self-generating, never-ending cycle of corruption, hypocrisy, and hopelessness with seemingly no possible solution.