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Steven Soderbergh, the master of narrative, creates a drug, crime film the way one should be made. What’s so brilliant about this film is that every scene does its own work to fill in the information to the larger puzzle. Soderbergh takes a bold, but ingenious move to give the three main stories different colors; thus adding to the narrative. By breaking up the three snapshots of America’s drug war in different colors helps the audience know where the characters are at all times. When in Mexico the colors are warm, bleached yellow-orange, when in D.C the color is a icy blue, and when San Diego it seems like a mixture of both with vibrant hues. These colors were all done without color correcting filters, which shows a range of Soderbergh’s talent and what excellency of a storyteller he is.
Stephen Gaghan is the screenwriter of Traffic. Set in North America and making the story focus on the circuit of hard drugs coming out of Mexico and into the United States makes the film a whole lot more engaging and personal. Gaghan writes this script in a way that makes you feel for some of the characters. You see the insight of men and women living and dying throughout the continent, from Mexican Police to the wealthy characters in America. The main focus of the story though is the supply and demand of drugs, and the greed of those around them. The victims and villains of the drugs are equally shown on both sides, which is also the political message in Traffic. Whether you’re dealing, using, or trying to stop the drug war; you’re still helping the supply and demand in some way.
I have to put my hands together for the performances in Traffic. There isn’t one bad performance in this film at all. The three best performances in this film are by Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, and of course, Benicio Del Toro with his Oscar winning performance. Douglas’s performance is kind of like a slow burn that ends up being something great with a lot of emotion. His political character seems like his job is his number one priority and family comes second, but in the end it isn’t. His daughter is a hard drug user and at the end of the film you see all this emotion released from his character that shows he just wants his daughter to stop. Cheadle has always been and still is an underrated black actor that deserves more recognition. I really love his performance in Traffic, but can’t really explain why. He just plays his undercover cop character perfectly with that dedication and strive to get the job done. The best performance in this film and with a well deserved Oscar win is, Del Toro’s performance. He gives such a solid performance that you don’t think that’s Del Toro anymore, but instead he’s his character. He delivers almost all his lines in the film in Spanish. His character is a Mexican cop that knows he’s gotten in deep with the drug war. Just an incredible, round of applause performance.
Traffic is by far one of Steven Soderbergh’s best work, if not his best. I highly recommend this film to everyone.
Yes, it's really long, but it's totally worth it and it doesn't even feel like two and a half hours.
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In 7 official lists
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This movie ranks #143 in Emma Beare's 501 Must-See Movies
This movie ranks #154 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #341 in TSPDT's 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films
This movie ranks #428 in Academy Award - Best Picture Nominees
This movie ranks #563 in Box Office Mojo's All Time Adjusted Box Office
This movie ranks #801 in Box Office Mojo's All Time Worldwide Box Office
This movie ranks #911 in The New York Times's Book of Movies