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Top reviews from the United States
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I have always loved this film, which so urgently portrays the toll of drug traffic on all parties - small users, serious addicts, growers in poor countries, corrupt law enforcement and so forth. Benicio del Toro embodied all the paradoxes and tragic observances of the human being on the ground right in the middle. Exciting, terrifying, dramatic - the film moves you along fast paced simultaneous narratives.
Traffic was a Steven Soderbergh film about the war on drugs. It used an ensemble cast including Benicio del Toro, Jacob Vargas, Michael Douglas, Amy Irving, Erika Christensen, Don Cheadle, Luis Guzman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and others. They play in four main stories to try to relay the different parts of the war from the corrupt officials in Mexico to Washington’s anti-drug campaign to the DEA to drug use by kids.
Things start with del Toro and Vargas as Mexican State Police officers Rodriguez and Sanchez respectively. They get involved with a crooked Mexican general who is working for one drug cartel against another. Then there’s Douglas, Irvin and Christensen as the Wakefield family. Douglas plays the newly appointed drug czar who then finds out his daughter Christensen is into heavy drugs. Next are Cheadle and Guzman as DEA agents Gordon and Castro. They arrest a drug trafficker who spills the beans on his operations in the United States that includes Zeta-Jones’ husband. Starting with Mexico you have drug cartels who are so powerful they control the authorities and the military. Then there’s the irony of the drug czar having to fight drug use within his own family. It brings up the fact that drugs are widely used by Americans, which is the main reason why there’s the drug trade to begin with because the demand is so high in the U.S. Finally, the DEA agents highlight the fruitlessness of fighting the war on drugs on the American side of the border. Overall it portrays that the U.S. drives the drug trade and the war in both Mexica and the United States are failing.
Reviewed in the United States on September 11, 2016
Where there is demand, there will be supply! This notion has been around for thousands of years. Our government did not learn from the Volstead Act. Now we have had a 46 year war to stop drugs. This movie illustrates all the factions. Really well done, I might add. The two major properties about this war are money and politics. Watching this movie is grim, but more honest than most.
It must have been hard to show the complexities of the world of drugs and drugs trafficking without wimping out and coming around to simplistic generalities and easy solutions. One strength of this film is that it doesn't reveal any one answer to the problem of drugs. What it does do is show the difficulty in enforcing the law and keeping tabs on drug users and sellers. It also shows how even those who consider themselves untouchable (like the U.S Drug Czar, played with admirable restraint by Michael Douglas) are just as vulnerable as those who seem easier prey for the drug pushers. When Douglas's daughter slowly becomes addicted to drugs, for instance, he doesn't find out until it is almost too late. There is so much fine acting in this movie that I'd be hard-pressed to choose one performance as being better than another. Benicio Del Toro gives the performance of his career and, Catherine Zeta-Jones is absolutely superb as a drug lord's wife forced to cope with the threat of financial ruin when her husband is suddenly imprisoned. Her obvious pregnancy makes her seem especially vulnerable, especially desperate for security. There are few truly moral or idealistic characters in this movie but I found myself rooting for many of them, anyway. You're likely to come away from this one with a new view of the drug marketplace and the way it affects us all, whether we think about it or not.
Had Traffic stuck to the storylines about Mexico and the Ayala arrest/trial, it would have been a modern classic. Benicio Del Toro is nothing short of spectacular, and was well-deserving of his Oscar, and the interplay between the Feds monitoring Ayala's wife is very funny and believable. Unfortunately, the filmmakers decided to go "big picture", too, so we get the very weak Michael Douglas drug czar subplot. Although it too has its moments (the scene where the boy o.d.s is very believable, particularly the profuse sweeting and feeling hot that proceeded it, and the tear in the eye of Douglas's daughter when she first freebases is a nice touch), the overall tone of this part of the film is a bit preachy. The Douglas subplot also contains the two biggest flaws in the movie - the speed with which Douglas's daughter turns into a drug-crazed prostitute, and the totally unbelievable scene where Douglas resigns right in the middle of his first press conference (although I like the line, "...I don't know how you wage war on your family.") Still, this is a good, not great movie, and the DVD is pretty much along the same lines - some nice special features, but nothing that blows you away. Recommended, but there are other DVDs you should own first.
Tells the tale of the failed US "war on drugs" from the POV of users, dealers, cartel members, dirty police, DC politicians, DEA, and everyone in between. The cast was excellent, and the story realistic—the true picture of how it all works and doesn't work.
4.0 out of 5 starsOnly order on Amazon video if you speak Spanish!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 27, 2017
This is a great movie . But if you buy it on amazon video the subtitles won't work - which as a third of the movie is in Spanish - is essential. (Unless of course you speak Spanish!) Amazon have confirmed the subtitles aren't available in this format and refunded my rental fee, so now I'm ordering the DVD instead!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 28, 2010
This is a fairly long movie but i was engrossed after the opening scene. The film weaves several different, interconnecting stories all linked to drug trafficking. Cathering Zeta Jones is suberb as the wealthy wife who discovers that her husband's fortune isn't made from ligitimate business dealings, there is no way she will give up her life of luxury. Michael Douglas is his usual watchable self playing a government official who has just been given the job of sorting out the USA's drugs problem, little does he know what his teenage, privately educated daughter is getting up to. There are some very violent scenes including torture so this film may not be for the faint hearted. There is an almost-funny scene where the cops are trying to protect an informant whilst staying in a dingy hotel. A very entertaining film.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 12, 2013
It might have garnered a wheelbarrow full of academy awards but I'm afraid I just don't get it. This is a good movie but far from a great one so I suppose it might have been a bleak year in academy award terms. I won't spoil it for you by going through the heavily laden plot but don't hold your breath for a satisfying denouement to tie up the loose ends of said plot. Worth watching but not a DVD you're likely to put in the archive to watch again and again. One for the charity box I'm afraid.