Traffic (2000)

traffic poster 2000 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Benicio del Toro, Don Cheadle, visuals

Michael Douglas story, other story aspects

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Traffic

Studio:  Bedford Falls Productions

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  December 27, 2000 (Premiere)/January 5, 2001 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

traffic catherine zeta jones dennis quaid courtroom

Pregnant with husband in jail and rising bills? Time to become a stonecold killer!

America is at war with Mexico over the flow of drugs crossing the border.  Unfortunately, the war is more embedded than anyone can perceive.  Officers Montel Gordon (Don Cheedle) and Ray Castro (Luis Guzmán) are out to bring down Eduardo Ruiz (Miguel Ferrer) who could be the key to taking down Carlos Ayala (Steven Bauer)…leaving his pregnant wife Helena (Catherine Zeta-Jones) to pick up the pieces.  In Mexico, officers Javier Rodriguez (Benicio del Toro) and his partner Jacob Vargas (Manolo Sanchez) are finding that they might be working for the wrong team in General Arturo Salazar (Tomas Milian).  In Washington, D.C., Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas) has been selected as the new drug czar but problems with his own daughter Caroline (Erika Christensen) could reveal just how deep the problem goes.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh, Traffic is a crime drama film based upon the BBC series Traffik from 1989.  The film won Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Benicio Del Toro), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing with a nomination for Best Picture.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered special edition of the film (Criterion #151).

traffic michael douglas daughter erika christensen

Honey, you’re ruining my political career and this movie

I have to say that I don’t love Traffic.  There are parts of Traffic that are good, but there are lots of parts of Traffic that feel really overblown and overcooked.  Unfortunately for Traffic (in my opinion), the bad outweighs the good.

The movie is largely a collection of stories that don’t directly interact much.  The best of these stories is Javier Rodriguez who is struggling to battle drugs on his side of “the wall” with corruption in the government and only trying to help the people around him.  The weakest of the stories is the very preachy Robert Wakefield story with his drug-using daughter Caroline and the wisdom spouting Seth Abrahams (played by Topher Grace) which is way over the top.  Some of parts of the film and characters are based on real people which does add weight to the subject.

The cast is rather strong but a lot of the strength of the characters is determined by the strength of their story.  With his story being the strongest, Benicio del Toro becomes the scene stealer.  Michael Douglas feels like he’s just Michael Douglas again and Erika Christensen feels like she fell out a bad After School Special about the dangers of drugs.  I like Don Cheadle as the U.S. equivalent of Benicio del Toro, but I don’t know that I believe the story arc of Catherine Zeta-Jones who goes from housewife to cold-blooded drug tsar…while it is fun, it seems a bit unrealistic.

traffic benicio del toro pool scene

I want you to deliver one thing to me (plus an Oscar)

The movie does a lot of great stuff visually.  Soderbergh stylized the film with different areas being different colors.  Mexico has a yellowy feel, Washington’s side has a blue tone, and the battleground where the two meet in California has a more natural tone.  It creates an interesting dynamic that distinguishes the film.

Traffic has so much potential.  The original cut was over three hours and was cut down almost fifty minutes leading you to question if the original cut worked better but was less financially sound.  The story about the war on drugs from all fronts was not only topical in 2000, but it is potentially even more topical today.  It is that aspect of the story which holds up and lends itself to reflection…did we lose the war?  The problems with Traffic overide the good things with Traffic…which is too bad.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response