If there is a war on drugs, then many of our family members are the enemy. And I don't know how you wage war on your own family.
A review by Mike Shea Movie Rating: ( * * * * · ) DVD Rating: ( * * * · · )
It is nice to know that a psychotic homosexual drug cartel assassin and myself enjoy the same warm and smooth sound of B&W loudspeakers. It always helps to be able to relate to a character such as this through the details of a simple line of dialog. Steven Soderbergh has learned the key to a good story are the characters and the key to good characters are details. While it uses a little bit of trendy direction that will no doubt call attention to itself, Traffic is a perfect example of a great movie based on story and characters.
Traffic is a view of the drug war that has everything from the large scale political issues all the way to the details of an individual user feeding her addiction. It follows four main stories that intertwine around a single subject, but rarely interact with each other. It shows all aspects of drug trafficing through the eyes of it's characters in vivid and disturbing detail. The documentary style approach would almost be too serious except for the wonderful characters who tell this tale.
Within the first line of dialog in Traffic we get a full understanding why Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez (Benicio Del Toro) acts the way he acts. Soderbergh learned a lesson I wish all other directors would take to heart. You can build very realistic characters with nothing other than a line of dialog or two. There isn't any need for whole subplots to fill up the dead space of the movie, a simple detail of the characters past helps to show their motivation and their feelings towards the situations they face.
All of the characters in Traffic do a wonderful job but Del Toro does steal the show. While Michael Douglas does a fine job filling out his role, until the last scene we don't get to see a lot of flavor to his character. Luis Guzman and Catherine Zeta-Jones also does an acceptable job, although she plays a character with the largest change and you can never put your finger on where it happens. The characters all do the perfect job of telling the story as it was meant to be told.
Unfortunately most people will focus on the way the movie was made rather than the story within. Soderbergh followed a lot of the Dogma 95 Rules of Chastity though he violated at least two that I know of. These rules are built to put the focus of filmmaking on the story and the characters rather than any special effects, costumes, lighting, sets or any outside influence. The problem is that people will focus on this fact rather than the story itself, which negates the whole reason of following them in the first place. Soderbergh did decide to use some colored lens filters to help the transitions from story to story, did use music in a few scenes and did allow himself to be credited as the director which broke three of the ten rules, but it still is a far better movie than many who don't follow any.
The DVD of Traffic is a wonderful representation of the film. It has a 1.85 to 1 16x9 enhanced aspect ratio and a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. There is no DTS track but the subtlety of the Dolby Digital track didn't really make me want anything more. Unfortunately the movie is missing a directors commentary which I would have loved to have listened to. An artsy movie like this really should include a commentary whenever possible, but now I guess the door is open for a super special collectors ultimate edition. Hell, they could include a free bag of coke!
Traffic is a movie that will probably be more widly known for it directing style, a direct anthisis of why it was directed the way it was in the first place. On its own it is a great look at all the issues surrounding the drug trade following it through the eyes of characters involved at many levels. It is a great story with some wonderful characters and should not be missed.