A look at the illegal drug trade from multiple
perspectives in the United States and Mexico.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Stephen Gaghan
Starring Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro,
Catherine Zeta-Jones, Dennis Quaid, Luis Guzmán,
Jacob Vargas, Erika Christensen, Miguel Ferrer,
Topher Grace, Tomas Milian, Amy Irving
Based on the 1989 miniseries Traffik
Oscar Wins - Best Supporting Actor (Benicio Del Toro),
Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture
Traffic may be the best 2000s film that showcases a singular story from multiple perspectives. It shines a painful spotlight on the seemingly endless and pointless war on drugs, particularly the fight against the immensely powerful cartels in Mexico that are distributing their products into the United States. In his film, possibly Soderbergh's masterpiece, we see how multiple people from all walks of life are affected by an attempt to take down a powerful cartel in Mexico, from the agents involved to the junkies that snort the product. With such an epic ensemble and some impressive (and at times unseemly) cinematography, Traffic is one of the best films of 2000.
If we have to choose a hero, it's Robert Wakefield (Douglas), a judge who has just been appointed the head of the President's Office of National Drug Control Policy. At first, he intends to crack down hard on drug dealers and drug users, but things change when he learns his daughter Caroline (Christensen) is addicted to coke. This forces Wakefield to choose between his job and his daughter, while also realizing that nobody is actually trying to stop the cartels, as most of the government knows it's an unwinnable war that just looks good as a scapegoat.
Meanwhile, Mexican police officer Javier Rodriguez (Del Toro) is recruited by a powerful Mexican general (Milian) to help take down the Obregon Cartel. Javier and his partner Manolo (Vargas) get drawn into a powerful conspiracy involving a rival cartel and the Mexican government. At the same time, a San Diego drug lord is arrested, and his wife (Zeta-Jones) learns who her husband really was, while the agents who arrested him become targets themselves. It all connects so well, with every story delivering a harsh lesson about the drug trade and giving us morally gray, realistic characters. Traffic is a modern-day epic that feels like a documentary at times, but never loses its vicious edge.