TRAFFIC
An important movie that will educate, shock, and enlighten viewers about drugs and their place in our world.
-Review by SCOTT CRIPPS

TRAFFIC
(2000)


This page was created on January 05, 2001
This page was last updated on May 16, 2005

Click to enlargeDirected by Steven Soderbergh
Writing credits: Simon Moore (miniseries Traffik)
Screenplay:
Stephen Gaghan

Michael Douglas .... Robert Wakefield
Amy Irving .... Barbara Wakefield
Erika Christensen .... Caroline Wakefield
Don Cheadle .... Montel Gordon
Benicio Del Toro .... Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez
Luis Guzmán .... Ray Castro
Dennis Quaid .... Arnie Metzger
Click to enlargeCatherine Zeta-Jones .... Helena Ayala
Steven Bauer .... Carlos Ayala
Jacob Vargas .... Manolo Sanchez

Clifton Collins Jr. .... Francisco Flores
Miguel Ferrer .... Eduardo Ruiz
Topher Grace .... Seth Abrahams
Peter Riegert .... Attorney Michael Adler
Benjamin Bratt .... Juan Obregon
Tomas Milian .... General Arturo Salazar
Marisol Padilla Sánchez .... Ana Sanchez
Albert Finney .... Chief of Staff
Joel Torres .... Porfilio Madrigal
D.W. Moffett .... Jeff Sheridan
James Brolin .... General Ralph Landry

Produced by Laura Bickford, Marshall Herskovitz, Cameron Jones (executive), Graham King (executive), Andreas Klein (executive), Mike Newell (executive), Richard Solomon (executive), Edward Zwick
Original music by Cliff Martinez
Cinematography by Steven Soderbergh (as Peter Andrews)
Film Editing by Stephen Mirrione

Rated R for pervasive drug content, strong language, violence and some sexuality.


Running Time: 1 min.
QuickTime 2 MB
QuickTime 5 MB
QuickTime 7 MB

RealVideo Trailer
RealVideo Trailer
RealVideo Broadband Trailer

No one gets away clean
SYNOPSIS:
A contemporary thriller set in the world of drug trafficking, Traffic evokes the high-stakes, high-risk world of the drug trade. Told through a series of interrelated narratives, the stories range from the highly personal to those filled with intrigue and danger. A pair of undercover DEA agents (Don Cheadle and Luis Guzman) work in the sordid and dangerous world of San Diego dealers; a wealthy drug baron (Steven Bauer) living in upscale, suburban America is arrested Click to enlargeand learns how quickly his unknowing and pampered wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) takes over his business; the U.S. president's new antidrug czar, an Ohio State Supreme Court Justice (Michael Douglas), must deal with his increasingly drug-addicted teenage daughter (Erika Christensen); and a Mexican policeman (Benicio Del Toro) finds himself caught in a web of corruption.
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Click to enlargeTRAFFIC
Review by SCOTT CRIPPS

Scott is married, has a little one on the way, and is a youth pastor for Westview Baptist Church here Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Movies are a large part of his life which he enjoys with his wife.

Click to enlargeTraffic is an important film. It will not lighten your spirits, it will not have you rolling in the aisle and it most definitely won't be called the "feel good movie of the year". Nevertheless it is an important movie that will educate, shock, and enlighten viewers about drugs and their place in our world. Traffic had an amazing cast of actors who all should all be recognized for their work in bringing the world of drugs, which so often those of us who live in suburbs or who are not directly affected by drugs ignore, to vivid life. Traffic is a gritty movie that employs many different techniques to convey the imagery and the feelings of the drug world. Much of the movie had a documentary sense to it where the footage was all done with a handheld camera. As well, every time the story went back to Mexico, a yellow tinge came upon the screen that accentuated the dirt, heat and destitution of Mexico bringing together a movie that appears frighteningly real. Therefore the movie showed that from the White House, to posh mansions, to the filth of the inner cities, to the slums and dirt of Mexico, drugs have infiltrated and infected them all. They are a plague that knows no cure, and they are killing our friends, neighbors and families.

The central character in Traffic is the drugs, everybody else are merely supporting cast to the centrality of the drugs. Drugs are what link and hold this entire movie together as Traffic explores all the different aspects of the drug trade from both sides of the law. There are many different sub-plots that combine to make the overall story. The following are the different yet interlocking storylines occurring simultaneously throughout the movie.

-Washington D.C.-

Click to enlargeThis is the story of the impact of drugs on an American family. The family is not your typical family as the father, Judge Robert Wakefield, is the newly appointed anti-drug czar of the United States. His job is to turn the tide on the war against drugs but while he is doing this, the very problem that he is hired to eliminate enters his own home through his daughter. From this storyline we see the impact drugs have on youth and youth culture. Upscale suburban kids, who have everything going for them, but nothing to do, get caught up in the world of drugs and drug addictions. Click to enlargeWe especially see the influence one youth, Seth Abrahms, has on Robert Wakefield's daughter Caroline, as he introduces her and supplies her with the drugs she needs for her addictions. We witness the downward spiral one enters when drugs become one's all in all and the degrading behavior that addicts exhibit to maintain their dependency on drugs. Therefore this storyline demonstrates the devastating impact drugs have on families. Drugs destroy the mind and body of the users but they also tear apart families as these characters so aptly portray.

-Tijuana, Mexico-

Click to enlargeDrugs are a big time business in Mexico. In a country where legitimate economic opportunities are scarce, the drug world offers quick money but high risks. Traffic describes this scene through the eyes of a Mexican policeman, Javier Rodriguez. Javier is a legitimate cop who finds himself working for one of the leading anti-drug enforcers in Mexico, General Arturo Salazar.Click to enlarge Life in Mexico though is not that black and white with the good guys on one side and the bad guys on the other; Mexico, except for Javier, is all about the shades of gray. Tijuana, because it is right on the border with the United States, is a central point for the distribution of cocaine and in Traffic it is controlled by two rival drug cartels. Therefore Javier finds himself right in the middle of it all, warring drug cartels on one side, Click to enlargecorrupt police and military on the other and himself being tempted by money and power and forced to make many difficult decisions upon which his very life depends. Javier proves time and time again that he is the very type person this world needs more of. He is not perfect, but he is a man who stands up for truth and for what he believes in. As tempting as the money and power are, he stuck to his convictions even when his life was in danger for doing so. He stayed the course despite losing his best friend and in the end came out the victor.

-Suburbs of San Diego, United States-

Click to enlargeThe third and final major storyline involves the DEA and a midlevel drug dealer, Eduardo Ruiz who fingers his drug tycoon boss, Carlos Ayala, which results in his trial. In this storyline we witness the trial process of major drug players and the limitations that the law and law enforcement officers have in dealing with the drug suppliers. Carlos lives in the wealthy suburbs of San Diego and unknown to his pregnant wife, Helena Ayala, he is a major drug importer for one of the Tijuana drug cartels. Click to enlargeWhen Carlos is arrested, Helena's world falls apart. Accustomed to wealth and prestige she loses everything when her husband is busted. After the life of her son is threatened she becomes willing to do anything to make sure her husband can win his trial and their life can return to 'normal' including taking over his business and running the drugs again. This part of Traffic also takes inside the lives of the DEA agents and the efforts they make to rid the US of drugs. We see the hard work and sacrifice they make to ensure that the community baseball diamonds and parks are safe for kids to play in.

Click to enlargeIn the end the characters and incidents in the movie question the impact the efforts of the DEA and other drug enforcement agencies are having in the war on drugs. The questions posed are, in terms of the big picture, what does the arrest of a single person do in relationship to the inflow of drugs into the country? Are the thousands and millions of dollars spent prosecuting drug offenders really worth it when there is always somebody else ready and willing to fill the spot left by that person? Click to enlargeThe answers to these questions are not given in the movie; in fact, judge Robert Wakefield in a press conference during Traffic attempts to explain his ten point plan to deal with the problem of drugs. Right before he starts he breaks down and states that to fight the war on drugs is to fight your very own family because the problem of drugs is so pervasive. He realizes that he doesn't have the answers. This movie is a gritty one to watch but it is important because it in no way glamorizes the world of drugs which so many movies seem to do. Drugs are evil and bad, and for portraying that to us and to our youth we should be grateful.

ABOUT A MOVIE REVIEW OF YOURS
Subject: Traffic
Date: Sun, 10 Feb 2002
From: "Gerben Meijer"

Hi,
I just finished watching Traffic (didn't catch it all - it was on tv here and missed some of the first part). i went on searching for reviews on it and also came across your review. I was wondering if you had ever seen Requiem of a Dream. I couldn't find it in the reviews anywhere, and was wondering what your opinion is on that particular movie.

Also, I read your review of K-Pax. Wonderful movie isnt it? I was wondering if you are familiar with the books of Jakob Lorber (http://www.j-lorber.com/) since the words I read in his writings appeal the most to me in regards to the underlying message in K-Pax.

This might come all out of the blue, but if you have some time, I'd appreciate it if you could let me know what you think. I'm really interested in your thoughts on this :)
Thank you in advance.
Gerben

REVISITING AMERICAN BEAUTY
Subject: American Beauty and Traffic
Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2001
From: "Steve Forsyth"

I revisited this film again after seeing the movie Traffic. I think it's interesting the contradictions coming from the same industry (Hollywood - yes I know they are from different studios, but it's the same industry in the end). In Traffic, though the film makers atemted to remain mostly neutral in their views, still they showed the dark reality of drugs and the evil that comes from it - certainly an anti-drug film. Yet, look at American Beauty from a few years earlier. The catlyst for the freeing of Kevin Spacey was has embarkment into drug use. The one 'grounded" character amidst all the fake people was the drug dealer. Drugs in this film are a positive thing.

I tried defending this film for awhile from the harsher critics, claiming the film was trying to show us ourselves in a way that might cause us to change some of our thinking. But I really regret that now. I think a much better film could have been made with all the same elements but without unnecessary nudity (meant to arouse) and showing more definite harm coming from the drug use and total self-indulgence of Spacey's character. As it is, Spacey is 'freed' when he leaves responsibility. A most irresponsible message, I think.

Again, I don't think the intent of the filmmakers was to turn us all into pedophiliac, drug-using, family churning people - but I think he should have been a little clearer with just what was wrong with this picture.

FINAL SCENE
Subject: The final scene as metaphor for the whole movie
Date: Thu, 5 Apr 2001
From: Mark

"Traffic" ends with a little league baseball game. Each batter gets on base after one pitch -- the pitching and fielding are mediocre at best. As the scene ends, the bases are loaded and the pitcher is trying to intimidate the runners back to base instead of allowing the steal. We never see the next batter swing, but he's coming to the plate and it looks like he might just knock in a run or two. Likewise, the dealers, users and cartels are "outplaying" the government and parents. However, the government and parents don't give up. They just keep "pitching and fielding," intimidating and waving back the drug forces the best they can. The film's open ending and the scene's open ending both leave us wondering "How long until this game is over? It could be a long night. Will the offense bring in some of those runners on base out ther? Will the defense stop them any time soon? Even if they're stopped this inning, what will happen next inning?" This could sound trite, but my theory is: there are very few scenes left to chance in a Hollywood film. This is a fully intentional metaphor.

ONE LIFE AT A TIME
Subject: Traffic
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2001
From: Kim

Finally saw Traffic tonight. I'm so deeply moved I came home and turned my computer on immediately. What an incredibly well-done film.

What moved me the most spiritually was the scene where Robert Wakefield finally finds his daughter. I thought to myself THAT is our God. Though Robert had to painfully learn grace and involved love for his daughter, our Lord has always been that to us, wading into the nakedness, shame and heartbreak of our sin and rescuing us, searching for us desperately, such an important man, such an important God, leaving it all to come and find us. When Robert sent the john out of the room with fierce anger, and moved toward his daughter with heartwrenching compassion, I could only think of how God is also fiercly protective of that which would harm us, and in turn reaches out to us with the heart of a passionately involved and caring father. What a tragedy that we don't often respond as easily as Caroline did, but instead turn our heads or try to cover our sin, fearing rejection. She didn't even seem surprised to see him, but simply looked utterly relieved and said "hi Daddy."

I too noticed a cross in the final scene but not on the wall. It was on the podium Caroline was standing behind; there must have been two. I think it was supposed to be a church. I thought to myself that though it is obvious that governments and law enforcement must fight the cartels and pushers - both the elite and the small fry - drugs are not going away any more than prostitution is. For the Carolines, when one cartel is dissolved, she can still find her drugs. Her life is not changed or healed. To me, the "real" heroes are those amazing individuals that work everyday with people like Caroline, people so desperately trying to get their lives together. I thought it was very significant when Robert said on the plane, "why isn't treatment here? Make a note to find out why treatment isn't here."

The victory is won one life at a time...

TRUE TO THE BITTER END
Date: Wed, 07 Mar 2001
From: Gordon Scott

I, being rescued from a life not much unlike a figure that might have been portrayed in the movie, felt it was a compelling and moving film.

As one who knows all to well, the world being portrayed, I can tell you this movie does a very good job of getting to the essence of the desperation and futility in the lifes of all of those it characterizes.

Its an extremely sad movie, when realizing that it is so true. It hurts to know its still real, yesterday today and tomorrow. Day in and day out all over north america, this movie is being replayed in the lives of real human beings. It is a painful reminder of the anguish the population endures on an hourly basis, because none of us is immune and we all know someone who has been touched and hurt by this scourge.
Gordon Scott

WORTH SEEING
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2001
From: Trey Harris

Saw Traffic the other night. Not a feel good movie at all, but one well worth seeing. It captures the entire drug scene. One of the most important scenes of the movie was the end with the parents willing to listen to their daughter's tale. They should have thought of that long before.
Trey Harris

SOOTHING AND UPLIFTING
Subject: "Traffic"
Date: Mon, 29 Jan 2001
From: David Buckna

Finally saw the film "Traffic". Wow! Did you notice the cross on the wall in one scene (near the end of the film) when the daughter speaks in front of a group, with her parents in the audience? Was it a church or church hall? Did either of you think the backstop frame (with netting) in the final scene [at the baseball diamond] resembled a large cross? It sure did to me! And what was the song played? Very soothing and uplifting.
David

Response: Yes I did notice. It is a story of a father who discovers the meaning of grace for his daughter. -David

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Traffic © 2000 USA Films