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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.
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There's a mystery afoot in Gotham City when a shadowy vigilante known only as Red Hood sets his mind to stalking Batman and his former sidekick, Dick Grayson, who now goes by the heroic name of Nightwing. The duo must keep their focus, otherwise they'll fall prey to the Joker, Ra's al Ghul, and Black Mask. While the fans of Batman will watch this regardless of the reviews, even newcomers have the potential to enjoy this. The story isn't complicated and doesn't require much knowledge of the comic books to understand what's going on. Everything is straight forward and the pacing is extremely smooth, as it constantly keeps things moving. If something isn't happening with Red Hood, then something's happening with one of the other three villains featured here. Batman: Under the Red Hood could have suffered the same fate as Spider-Man 3 did. Even with only a few villains, the screen felt far too crowded and it didn't mesh well. That fortunately isn't the case here, as the plot never feels busy and each enemy receives the fair amount of screen time that they deserve. It never feels as if they're fighting for screen time, as it often does in other flicks. Batman: Under the Red Hood is about more than just Batman fighting bad guys. It dives deeper into the character and explores both his past and present as he realizes his failures. The film most certainly humanizes Batman more than we're used to and provides us with a character full of regret and disappointment in himself. Red Hood is a fun character for the Bat to face and they constantly feel evenly matched, therefore making the fight sequences much more enjoyable. I would have liked the movie to have been a bit longer since it does feel extremely short, although that doesn't fault the quality that lies within.
Underneath the script is a group of wonderful voice actor. Bruce Greenwood is a great Batman and the low voice from Christian Bale's Batman is most certainly not missed. Jensen Ackles voices Red Hood and does an excellent job, especially for being an actor that doesn't frequent animation as much as live action. Jason Isaacs and Wade Williams are welcome with open arms as Ra's al Ghul and Black Mask. Isaacs and Williams are fantastic as these two villains, as the voices truly fit the roles. There haven't been many actors that could correctly portray the Joker in either live action or animation. In The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger was the best Joker that has been seen on screen through the live action adaptations. I haven't seen all of the Batman animated flicks and TV shows, but the Joker here doesn't quite match up to what I expect from the character. John Di Maggio gives us more of a growl to the character that leaves me indifferent. Maggio is not a horrible Joker, especially when looking back at the history at some of the past actors that have voiced this villain. This is an exceptional voice acting cast that brings this feature to life.
DC Comics has strengthened not only the writing and the voice acting, but the visuals as well. The animation is much better than past attempts. Fortunately, this isn't the CG crap that we're used to seeing from modern-day cartoons. For those concerned with the picture quality in high definition, there are some flaws with some slightly pixelated images, although the majority of the film makes up for that. The audio is an all-around blast. The bass doesn't hold back as there are some furniture-shaking sequences. The dialogue is never difficult to hear and the surrounds are constantly being utilized to provide an incredible soundstage. During the action scenes, your speakers will provide you with a well-mixed soundtrack.
Everything that I expected from Batman: Under the Red Hood is fortunately false. I thought that it would be boring, generic, and superficial. It actually ended up being a really enjoyable animated feature with fun characters. The plot doesn't overcomplicate anything and it stays simple for the small running time that it possesses. The voice acting is great and the visuals are where they need to be. You don't need to be an ultimate Batman fan to enjoy this. Hopefully the animated superhero flicks in the future take note of this movie. This is one of the better ones I have seen where there are actually darker and more mature themes seen than what we're used to in animated superhero affairs. Batman: Under the Red Hood isn't perfect, but it's a very enjoyable animated feature that DC should be proud of.