Written by: Stephen Gaghan, based on the original BBC miniseries by Simon Moore
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Benicio del Toro, Don Cheadle, Dennis Quaid
My Advice: Matinee
The macrocosm of worldwide drug trafficking condensed into the microcosm of a theatrical release film. A judge (Douglas) gets appointed to be the new U.S. drug czar, only to learn that his daughter (Erika Christensen) is addicted to the very stuff her dad now is in charge of stopping. The wife (Zeta-Jones) of a businessman (Steven Bauer) learns that her husband’s real business was trafficking drugs into the U.S.–after he’s been arrested, leaving her and her family in dire straits. A Mexican cop (del Toro) has to fight the system and his own ethics when dealing with the drug trade.
My primary beef with Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic is that it’s just so long and drawn out. It had a very powerful message, and dealt it the way my favorite “message films” have done. They say, “Here’s the scenario–now here is it from every angle. You figure out what to think.” The problem with this film is that it takes forever to get to where it’s going. Granted, when it finally gets there, it’s a hell of a bomb to drop.
Also a bit disappointing is the color filters that Soderbergh uses to divide up his three storylines. A lot of people found this very artistic and esthetically pleasing–me, I just figured it was for those dolts who can’t keep up with intertwining plotlines. But you know, I’m a cynic like that.
All of that being said, I would recommend the British original version, Traffik over this one in a heartbeat. With that, perhaps you will be as amazed as I that a mini-series over five hours in length can seem a lot shorter than a two-and-a-half hour film. And also that you can transition across whole continents and yet never touch a color filter.