Dir: Steven Soderbergh
Star: Micheal Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Benicio Del Toro
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 2000
Format: DVD R1

I know we said that we were not going to review big Oscar winning films and only cult movies, but hell, rules are made to be broken. Traffic was one of the big winners at this years Oscars scooping four awards (not bad considering it was up against Gladiator).

The film consists of three linked stories which combine to provide a picture of the problems of international drug trafficking. One story deals with a Mexican police officer Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez (so good they named him twice. Sorry I couldn't resist it) (Benicio Del Toro) and his struggle to placate a corrupt General who is supposedly fighting the two main drugs syndicates in Mexico. Another story tells of the newly appointed American drug czar Robert Hudson Wakefield (Micheal Douglas) who is not only fighting the drugs coming from Mexico, but also his young daughters (Erika Christensen) drug addiction. The other story concerns the wife of an American drug importer Helen Ayala (Catherine Zeta-Jones), her husband has just been arrested and she is forced to face up to facts of just where the money comes from that finances the lifestyle she lives. This is also the story of the two cops (Luiz Guzman and Don Cheadle) trying to gain the convicting of her husband.

The strength of this film comes from the excellent script by Stephen Gaghan, which in turn has been adapted from the highly acclaimed UK TV miniseries Traffik by Simon Moore. All three stories that make up the main film are shown in simultaneously interlaced sections. This method of storytelling has been used successfully before, with notable similarities to Robert Altman's Short Cuts. This is not to say this is a bad thing. Far from it, it suits this film brilliantly especially when each of the elements overlap slightly, for example when Catherine Zeta-Jones's character visits Mexico and walks past the Javier Rodriguez (Del Toro).

Apart from this cleaver method of story telling the script is also brilliantly written. The dialogue is sharp and clever. Just check out the "two letter" speech made to Robert Wakefield by his predecessor, it is outstanding. The only small criticism I have is that sometimes it fails to shock, pulling its punches before anything truly terrible is shown (I'm not sure if this is the script or the direction \ editing).

The performance of the cast are the films other great strength. Nearly ever member of the cast delivers an good performance. Top of this pile is Benicio Del Toro who quite deservedly won a best supporting actor Oscar for his role. Other special mentions must be made for Luiz Guzman and Don Cheadle (reunited from starring in the excellent Boogie Nights), and for Catherine Zeta-Jones who, my lord, can actually act. The only grey cloud is Micheal Douglas who is usually far more effective than this (I know a few of you will disagree with this, but try watching him in Falling Down).

Ok now to the bit you will either love or hate, the cinematography. Steven Soderbergh can do no wrong in Hollywood at the moment, but here I am feeling like the boy in the fairy tale of the Emperors new clothes. Let me just explain what we have here. Each of the segments (i.e. each of the three stories) is introduced by using different filters and film stocks, yellow and grainy for Mexico, yellow for Washington and normal for California. Added to this is a profuse use of hand held shots and pseudo documentary style edits and framing of shots. Now this is either very clever, or just a pain in the bum. For what its worth I feel that a film is about telling a story and that the direction should add to the story not detract from it, as these flashy effects do here. Soderbergh is renown for the use of these effects (see The Limey), but you can't help but think that his current popularity is a passing fad. For an example of how direction can add to a story without resorting too these clever tricks see Ridley Scott's Alien.

Overall Traffic is a good film, it is complex and entertaining and stands up well to repeated viewings, that is if you can get past all of the flashy camera tricks.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Picture 1.85:1 The picture is quite grainy, ok so this may be intentional but it is annoying, and makes for terrible viweing.
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 THe least interesting mix I have come across. I know this film is dialogue heavy and the dialogue is clear, however hardly any ambient sound is used. Heck at one point I had to check I had switched the sound system on.
Features Puff piece 16 minute making of featurette
Deleted Scenes
Verdict The film itself gives a poor transfer, and there is not the most prolific selection of extras, especially on such and important film as this.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home