147 Min | Crime – Drama | December 2000
IMDB Rating: 7.7
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Michael Douglas, Benicio Del Toro, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Traffic Review: “Traffic” caught some of the most gratifying praise in the year 2000. Does the production live up to its expectations? To some extent. It is not a movie to take the family to on a Sunday afternoon, nor is it an “entertaining” popcorn extravaganza. “Traffic” is one of the best films of the year, but it is not a movie for everyone. “Traffic” is still a great achievement in filmmaking and visual style-worthy of some, but not quite all, of its great acclamation. The movie’s director, Steven Soderbergh, won Oscar nominations for both of his movies last year: “Erin Brockovich” starring Julia Roberts, and this epic about the never ending war on drugs. That first film is entertaining and charming, but this is far more complex in its story.
“Traffic” does not have the harrowing, compassionate, hard-to-watch tone that “Requiem for a Dream” had earlier last year, which also contained three different although parallel stories. That film depicted drug use as personal success followed by desolation and punishment. “Traffic” doesn’t really make drugs personal, although the plot featuring Michael Douglas’ drug addicted daughter touches on the idea, and the actors do a good job of making the character’s attitudes hit home, but the film is more about the war on drugs within America as a country, and how it is a battle not likely to be won anytime soon. The picture does not capture the feeling of the characters like “Requiem for a Dream” did with its highly elaborate styles and camera effects. “Traffic” just isn’t as emotionally profound as the much more worthy “Requiem for a Dream.”
Steven Soderbergh does manage to capture an inciting style with grainy, high contrast photography exploring the atmosphere of Mexico. He pays attention to even the smallest scenes. Take a scene where the Benicio De Toro character encounters a young married couple who complain about their stolen car. Many directors would have left this scene on the editing tables, or paid less courtesy to it because it is not as important as many other scenes. He gets the right mood, confusion of the characters, all while furthering the development of De Toro’s character. Each individual scene here is interesting on its own merit. A top notch cast contributes superb performances in “Traffic.” We expect and receive good performances from actors like Michael Douglas, Amy Irving, Dennis Quaid, Benicio Del Toro, and Albert Finney, but there are also some newcomers who shine with their material, including Erika Christensen and Topher Gracer. Traffic is greatly constructed and perfectly cast-it is the kind of movie in which you walk out of the theater wanting to discuss your opinions about it.