TrafficJanuary 5, 2001
A conservative judge is appointed by the President to spearhead America's escalating war against drugs, only to discover that his teenage daughter is an addict.
Release Year: 2000
Rating: 7.7/10 (105,836 voted)
Critic's Score: 86/100
Stars: Michael Douglas, Benicio Del Toro, Catherine Zeta-Jones
A modern day look at America's war on drugs told through four separate stories that are connected in one way or another. A conservative politician who's just been appointed as the US drug czar learns that his daughter is a drug addict. A trophy wife struggles to save her husband's drug business, while two DEA agents protect a witness with inside knowledge of the spouse's business. In Mexico, a corrupt, yet dedicated cop struggles with his conscience when he learns that his new boss may not be the anti-drug official he made himself out to be.
Writers: Simon Moore, Stephen Gaghan
Benicio Del Toro
Desert Truck Driver
Desert Truck Driver
General Arturo Salazar
Salazar Soldier #2
Russell G. Jones
State Capitol Reporter #1
State Capitol Reporter #2
DEA Agent – CalTrans
DEA Agent – CalTrans
DEA Agent – CalTrans
No One Gets Away Clean
Release Date: 5 January 2001
Filming Locations: A-1 Self Storage, 1190-B W. Morena Boulevard, San Diego, California, USA
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: $184,725
(27 December 2000)
Did You Know?
When a critic commented that it seemed unrealistic that the daughter's high school record was almost perfect when she was taking drugs, screenwriter Stephen Gaghan pointed out that the high school record in the movie was his and that he had been abusing drugs at the time.
Inside the surveillance van, the time indicated on the wristwatch hanging up near Ray changes drastically between continuous shots.
Last night I had an ugly nightmare.
Oh yeah? What happened, man?
The Real Best Film of 2000
A dazzlingly complex film, `Traffic' takes a hard, unflinching look at the
so-called `war on drugs' that is perfectly clear and uncompromising.
Director Steven Soderbergh takes the various viewpoints of the drug culture
— the users, the dealers, the police, and the politicians — and weaves
their differing stories together into a single story that is both deep in
its ideas but very simple to understand. In terms of story, direction, and
characters, `Traffic' is easily Soderbergh's best film to date, and one of
the best films made in recent years, period.
`Traffic' takes a look at the world of drugs through the stories and lives
of different characters. Some are loosely connected to one another; some
are not. There is the story of Javier Rodriguez (Benicio Del Toro), a
Mexican policeman struggling to keep his distance from the corruption that
seems to follow him everywhere; there is the story of Ray Castro (Luis
Guzman) and Montel Gordon (Don Cheadle), two DEA agents trying to turn the
low-level drug dealer Eduardo Ruiz (Miguel Ferrer) against his drug cartel
boss; there's the story of Helena Ayala (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the
unsuspecting wife of the drug cartel boss who suddenly learns who her
husband really is and what he does for a living; and then there's the new
head of the DEA, Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas), a man so wrapped up in
his mission to stop the war on drug, he fails to notice that his own
daughter Caroline (Erika Christensen) is becoming addicted to crack. Much
like in the real world, the events of each story directly or indirectly
affect the events of the others, leaving all the characters to consider
their roles in the drug culture . . . and what, if anything, they can do to
change those roles.
In terms of story, `Traffic' is absolutely brilliant. I'm still amazed
the film could cover so many plotlines and dozens of characters so
effortlessly. Each story — whether it's Helena assuming the role of her
drug-dealing husband, or Robert canceling DEA meetings so he can deal with
his drug-addicted daughter — is powerful and brutally honest. `Traffic'
isn't afraid to look at tough or uncomfortable issues. `Traffic', somewhat
surprisingly, never preaches, either — while it's safe to say that the
message of the film is essentially anti-drug, it never comes out and
outright says that message. A lesser film would've had some grandiose
speech imbedded somewhere in the film denouncing the use of drugs — not
`Traffic'. It's wise enough to let the viewer take what messages they want
from the film, without ever preaching. (A minor quibble — did Michael
Douglas' character really have to be the new drug czar of the United
The fact that he was the top law enforcement drug official in the U.S.,
that his daughter was addicted to drug . . . well, it seemed a little too
far-fetched, and a little too movie-like. If Mr. Douglas had been playing
ONE of the top drug officials in the federal government, instead of THE top
official, I would've found his character to be infinitely more
Soderbergh's also at the top of his game with his direction of `Traffic'.
The film is virtually filmed entirely with hand-held camera, giving each
every scene an up-close-and-personal feel. There's also a distinct lack of
background music, which lets the viewer feel like they're eavesdropping on
real-life scenes, and not just watching a movie. These techniques make for
a very personal, intense experience. Soderbergh also uses a technique he's
used in some of his other films (Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich) — certain
scenes are filtered a specific color, to heighten a mood or a sense of
awareness of what's about to happen. The scenes in Mexico featuring the
Mexican detective Javier, for example, are all filmed in a very bright,
almost disorienting yellow. It's a technique that can be irritating at
times, but for the most part, it serves a bold purpose that truly adds to
As for the characters, and the acting . . . jeez, `Traffic' is without a
doubt one of the best-cast films of all time. I mean it. There are no
links, no poorly written characters, and no badly played characters. Each
and every character adds something significant to the story in `Traffic',
and each and every actor is outstanding. Kudos must go to possibly one of
the best ensemble casts of all time. Three actors in particular stand out,
though — Benicio Del Toro (who won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his
performance), Don Cheadle (who was actually slightly better than the
brilliant performance of Mr. Del Toro, IMHO), and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
normally loathe to use the word `flawless' when describing a film, but the
casting of `Traffic' was indeed flawless.
`Traffic', with its unflinching look at drug use in America today, can be
uncomfortable at times to watch. It certainly can't be termed a `happy' or
a `feel-good' film. That doesn't change the fact that it is an amazing,
thought-provoking, powerful film — and without a doubt the best film
released in the year 2000. I can't recommend this film enough. Grade: