Starring: Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Director: Steven Soderbergh
TRAFFIC began its life as Traffik, a British television series. It has been relocated and adapted for United States drug issues.
With current releases like Requiem for a Dream, it is clear that drugs are one of the major issues of today’s society.
Films need to explore what is happening on the level of dealers, on the level of addicts, on the level of rehabilitation. That is what Traffic does.
Director Steven Soderbergh expressed the hope that the public would find the film entertaining but that something might happen as they watch without their realising it and that they would start to think about and discuss the serious issues afterwards.
With the critical success of the film in the US and its popularity, it could well contribute significantly to reflection on drug issues.
In fact, it is three stories in one, skilfully interwoven so that we are drawn into the world of the Mexican cartels and their ruthlessness, the work of the drug enforcement agencies in San Diego and the high level of Washington policy as well as drug abuse by affluent teenagers in the Mid West cities.
Different audiences will find different stories more interesting. There is more action in the operations of the Mexican police, which Soderbergh has filmed with a yellow filter to give strong impression of the heat and desert and has used a hand-held camera to give a sense of documentary realism.
Screenwriter, Stephen Gaghan won a Golden Globe recently.
Benicio del Toro (also a Golden Globe winner) is the star of these episodes, a Tijuana cop with a conscience but oppressed by the corrupt system.
There is more action and drama in the San Diego story which is filmed more conventionally with Don Cheadle as an agent protecting a witness and Catherine Zeta-Jones as a wealthy wife who finds her husband arrested and becomes as ruthless as he.
The most serious story is that of the Ohio judge who is asked to head the Government’s anti-drug agency but who discovers that he has to cope with his daughter’s addiction. Michael Douglas is convincing as the judge.
Steven Soderbergh also directed last year’s Erin Brockovich. He has shown a strong interest in today’s social problems, reminding us that a film can be a powerful way of dramatising the issues and spreading this awareness.
One of the most graphic stories is that of the judge’s 16 year-old daughter, her addiction and treatment. This is a sometimes horrific warning about drug-taking.
Because of its topic, its cast and its critical success, Traffic will be one of the most talked about films in coming weeks.