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Action & Adventure and Drama movie directed by Steven Soderbergh

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Everything you ever wanted to know about the drug war

  • Jan 21, 2001
Pros: Great cast, script, doesn't hold back

Cons: Very disturbing, can be confusing

The Bottom Line: An excellent film, but don't see it unless you're truly prepared for the subject matter.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

The best thing I can say about "Traffic" is that it was unique. It takes a very documentary-like approach to a fictional story about the drug war. Or, more specifically, 3 fictional stories about the drug war. It is also very, very disturbing-more so than many of the horror films I have seen, mainly because it is very realistic. It doesn't hold anything back.
The stories all intertwine with each other one way or another. In the first scene, we see Mexican cop Benicio Del Toro wait patiently with his partner to bust a shipment of drugs. At the same time, Michael Douglas is appointed the new head of the war on drugs while at his home in Cincinati, his teenage daughter snorts cocaine. On the next coast, the new Mrs. Douglas, Cathrine Zeta-Jones, comes home to find her house overrun with FBI agents. Only then does she find out that her husband is a major drug lord. The progression of the plots is excellent. We see Douglas come home to his family and become aware of his daughter's drug habit, send her to rehab, only to have her run off and become a prostitute. We see Zeta-Jones go from the shocked wife to the temporary head of her incarcerated husband's cartel, while their slimy lawyer (Dennis Quaid) attempts to move in on her and on the drug money. We see Del Toro... Well, we see Del Toro. I haven't figured his out yet.
The performances are all excellent. Besides the headlining cast, we have Benjamin Bratt, Don Cheadle, and Amy Irving, along with so many others that I can't remember them all. Del Toro in particular really stands out. If he does not win an Oscar this year, the Academy should disband. Steven Soderberg's directorial style in this movie was kind of haunting, in a way. Besides the shaky cameras, he uses very little music. Some of the scenes will stick around in your head for years.
"Traffic" is not about the drug war as a whole, but about the small victories and defeats. It is a fine example of why doing drugs is a bad idea. It will also haunt you for years. It is a true masterpiece, but it is also very depressing. I have no regrets about seeing it, but I will not be going back to see it again anytime soon.


Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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More Traffic reviews
review by . August 31, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
This movie is intense, complex and firmly grounded in reality. The topic is the drug traffic between the United States and Mexico and it follows three interconnected yet somewhat distinct plotlines.    One is set in suburban, affluent Ohio. Michael Douglas plays a judge who has just been nominated by the President of the United States to be the drug czar. Unknown to him, his sixteen-year-old daughter is a heavy user, regularly attending drug parties with her equally affluent friends. Although …
review by . September 29, 2007
While people are currently complaining that we are fighting a foreign war that we have no way of winning, there is in fact a homeland war that is looking just as grim that gets far less media attention. That war is the war on drugs, a war that is examined in all different angles in Steven Soderbergh's exceptionally brilliant "Traffic." "Traffic" covers drugs from beginning to end. While "Crash" and "Babel" may have ultimately brought the craft of hyperlink storytelling to popularity, it was "Traffic" …
review by . July 25, 2006
I have finally seen this film in it's entirety and I like to say that `Traffic' is a richly entertaining epic that recalls the great works of the 1970s, when directors like Robert Altman and Francis Ford Coppola engaged mass audiences with works of genuine substance. Soderbergh works on a larger canvass than he's ever done before, bouncing several characters and plot-lines against and off each other, so that images and themes rhyme and echo. Although the subject matter is drug trafficking, this …
review by . March 19, 2001
Pros: Superb acting. Great script, and filming.     Cons: Some Characters (Amy Irving) needed more depth.      The Bottom Line: A daring film that is is well worth the effort. Makes you think and reflect...      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot. Although there are about 150 reviews of this movie at last count, allow me to add mine as to the growing number       There is a lot that …
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Ranked #26
Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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About this movie


Featuring a huge cast of characters, the ambitious and breathtakingTrafficis 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 czar (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;...

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Director: Steven Soderbergh
Genre: Action, Drama, Adventure
Screen Writer: Simon Moore, Stephen Gaghan
DVD Release Date: June 25, 2002
Runtime: 147 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios
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