Traffic (2004)Directed by : steven Soderbergh.Starring: Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Benicio Del Toro, Don Cheadle, Luis Guzman, Dennis Quaid, Tomas Milian, Jacob Vergas, Miguel Ferrer, Erika Christensen, Steven Bauer, Topher Grace, Clifton Collins Jr. Running time: 147 minutes.Rating: RGenre: Crime Drama.Reviewer’s rating: 9 out of 10.
Traffic tells the story of three different yet interwoven stories. The first story is Javier Rodriguez’s (Benicio Del Toro) and his partner Manolo Sanchez (Jacob Vergas) two hard working Mexican police officers. Javier who makes 316 dollars a month is hired by General Salazar a high ranking corrupt Mexican official who secretly supports illegal drug trade in Mexico from behind the curtains, unlike him Javier is not corrupt, on the contrary he has an unselfish dream that centers about turning the park in his neighborhood into a safe place for kids to play baseball a small dream that symbolizes making his country a safer, better place.Another story is the story of Helena Ayala( Catherine Zeta Jones ) wife of Carlos Ayala (Steven Bauer) a well known figure in San Diego and a rich businessman who to his wife’s surprise turns out to be the biggest drug distributer for the Obregon brothers in the united states .Carlos, arrested by DEA , is pressed charges against by a tough prosecutor who has a very strong case against him after arresting Eduardo Ruiz (Miguel Ferrer) a high stakes dealer who works for Carlos . Ruiz now being the key witness against Carlos is kept in custody until trial. The third and most engaging story is about Judge Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas) who is appointed to be the new American drug czar whose mission is to lead an unwinnable war against drugs. At first enthusiastic, Wakefield faces disappointment after another coming to realize that drug war plans fail upon hitting reality grounds as if we are trapped down in an endless pointless loop and that the enemy he calls for severely fighting exists within his own home, suddenly he is no longer a know it all politician, he is just a helpless parent to his daughter’s addiction, he then quits and goes home.Along the way Wakefield comes across shocking and terrifying facts about this fast growing trade and the enormous amounts of money put away to it by traders and addicts making it hard for the government to keep up.The film shortens the original television miniseries Traffik excluding some characters and shooting the Mexican story instead of the Pakistani. The film plot beautifully written by Stephen Gaghan links the three stories even though their characters never meet proving that an action can lead to another and that there are unseen connections between our lives, choices and all the things we do.Steven Soderberg (Erin Brockovich), Traffic’s director and cinematographer used a distinctive look for each story making it easy to follow and for the audience to keep track of the events and not fall into distraction and confusion, so each story appeared and felt different than the other. In Helena’s story diffusion filters were used making me feel how beautiful, shiny and powerful is the life of rich people yet how ugly it is from the inside. Tungsten film was used in Robert Wakefield’s story with no filters giving you a sad feeling as you watch the tragedy of his family while in Javier’s story director Steven Soderbergh used tobacco filter painting the screen pale sandy yellow made me feel I was in Mexico. Not only was Benicio Del Toro well cast for the role of Javier Rodriguez but he also gave an outstanding academy award winner performance. I also enjoyed the performances of Michael Douglas as judge Robert Wakefield a role turned down by Harrison Ford, I’m sure he regretted later. And Erika Christensen, Wakefield’s daughter who becomes a cocaine addict and goes all the way robbing her parents and prostituting herself to get drugs.
This two hours and twenty minutes crime drama film (originally three hours and ten minutes before being cut down by Soderbergh) reveals drug trade secrets and draws government attention to dangerous facts around the increasing availability of drugs to almost everyone, and the easy money guaranteed selling and distributing drugs tempting all kids to take drug dealing as a profession instead of going to respectful schools for education. How often do talented acting, outstanding screenplay, beautiful cinematography, and a globally important message all come together in one film?! Without getting bored for even a second, I truly enjoyed Traffic.