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Traffic intricately weaves three disturbing snapshots of America's drug war. At the forefront are a U.S. drug czar who learns his daughter is an addict and a Mexican cop dealing with a corrupt system. Meanwhile, a wealthy housewife whose husband is arrested for dealing must choose to carry on the business or sacrifice her lifestyle. Stories that intertwine have become ubiquitous in modern cinema. However, the quality of these movies most certainly vary. These plots depend a lot on the capabilities of the screenplay writer. In Traffic, we're presented a fantastic script. By the time this film ends, you'll feel that you know a substantial amount about each of the characters. You learn to love the likable characters and despise those who are meant to be hated. Screenplay writer Stephen Gaghan is able to dig under the audience's skin and keep us hooked. A lot of these types of films try to provide us with twists as to how each of the stories weave together. This isn't the case here. Once you get a feeling for the characters, their motivations, and goals, you realize how everything fits together. Instead, the central topic of drug use is utilized to captivate the audience in multiple stories of how these drugs affect each one of their lives. If this movie was any shorter, it might not have worked quite as well. Due to the fact that the movie is as long as it is, we're given the time to be attached to the characters and really get a feel for the flow of things. For those looking for a screenplay to capture every single bit of your attention, then you've found a great film to check out.
This well-crafted drama has been awarded four Oscars, although it's a bit surprising that there weren't more nominations for the acting department. Benicio Del Toro rightfully won the Academy Award for playing Javier Rodriguez. He plays a cop whose entire job and life change from being told that he must handle the drug trafficking in Mexico by the general. He successfully owns the character and packs it full of plenty of emotion. Michael Douglas is excellent as Robert Wakefield, who is the father of a teenage girl who becomes friends with the wrong crowds and falls into a bad drug addiction. He does an incredible job in the role as he has struggles with both his personal life, as well as maintaining his difficult job as he's appointed the U.S. drug czar. Don Cheadle is Montel Gordon, who is an honest DEA agent. There isn't even one shaky performance to be seen here. Each and every character is expertly interpreted to the screen through both the writing and the acting.
A lot has been put into Traffic visually. The director works with a lot of filters here to provide a completely different atmosphere and emotional state for each of the stories being told. During those that take place with Javier Rodriguez in Mexico, we're given a grainy and overly bright presentation, while cold and blue hues are utilized during the sequences in the U.S. through Robert Wakefield and his daughter's story. The Criterion release of the blu-ray is absolutely exceptional, although the director didn't intend for this to be seen in beautiful high definition, as Criterion has clearly respected. They provided the movie with a grainy and faithful transfer. The audio mixing is absolutely exceptional. The dialogue is never difficult to hear and the front channels are primarily utilized for music, although it comes through with an incredible amount of clarity. The surrounds aren't used very much, but the times they are, they're very effective. Just remember that this movie was originally in mono, so don't expect to have a bombastic track from this. It's so exceptional though because of the attention to detail.
The topic of drugs is a serious one across a variety of different countries. Movies like Traffic should be receiving more attention than they contain. This is an outstanding film that delivers one of the strongest screenplays for an intertwining set of stories from people that lead completely different lifestyles. The movie was successful in digging under my skin and remaining on my mind for even days after viewing it. The acting is marvelous and the visuals are wonderful. Fortunately, the film received the transfer it deserves from Criterion. While this isn't for younger audiences by any means, Traffic is an absolute must see for older teenagers and adults.