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Traffic interweaves three loosely connected stories that show
the drug war in the United States from different perspectives. The first
storyline involves a Tijuana cop [del Toro] and his partner, who learn
firsthand about the battle for market control between Tijuana’s top
two drug lords when they find themselves getting involved with one side
of the power struggle, and slowly getting pulled into the nefarious
dealings and back-stabbings of that world. In a second storyline, a
wealthy, pregnant San Diego socialite [Zeta-Jones] finds her pretty
little world falling apart when her husband is hauled away by the DEA,
and she learns that everything she owns has been purchased with drug
money. Meanwhile, an Ohio judge [Douglas], recently handpicked by the
President himself to head the United States’ war on drugs, finds the
problem attacking closer to home when he learns that his 16-year-old
daughter [Christensen] has been “experimenting” for quite a long
time, and now has a very serious drug addiction.
Review For the longest time, when Traffic was out in the
theatres and critics were proclaiming it the Best Movie of the Year!, I
put off checking it out myself. I’d ask friends who saw it what they
thought, and the universal answer would be some variant on: “Great.
Well-done. Very impressive” So when it came out on video, I figured
there’d be plenty of people who’d be willing to watch it again along
with me, seeing as how they all agreed it was so brilliant and all. Or
…not. My suggestion would
inevitably be followed by: “You know, I just don’t think I really
want to watch it again.” Fortunately I happened to be back home
visiting my parents at the same time as my med student brother, who’s
been so busy studying like a madman for the past half year that he’s
the only other movie-lover in the country, besides me, who hadn’t
already seen Traffic on the big screen. So we rented it. And
frankly, it’s easy to see why Traffic isn’t the sort of movie
that makes you want to watch it over and over again. See, Traffic
is very smart and very handsome, yet somehow, curiously lacking in a
soul. You can’t help but be impressed by the articulate way in which
it paints a picture of the futility of the United States’ so-called
war on drugs, but the stories it tells leave you feeling very cold, very
detached – the characters feel like stereotypes whose lives are
metaphors, displayed onscreen to represent an overarching point rather
than the harsh realities of
the impact of drugs on real people that you could actually
care about. Even the way the film is shot – with the del Toro scenes
bathed in scorching orange-yellow, the Zeta-Jones scenes shot
unfiltered, the Douglas scenes washed in a cool, muted blue – is
simultaneously gorgeous and completely un-evocative. With the fine
acting, the fine cinematography, and the fine editing that ensures
you’ll never be bored, the only thing wrong with Traffic is
that it doesn’t make you feel a damn thing.
In the end, Traffic is easy to admire but hard to love.
—reviewed by Y. Sun
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