Friday, August 22, 2014

Oscar Movie Review: "Traffic" (2000)

Image Source
Oscar Movie"Traffic"
Year Nominated: 2001
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 27 minutes
Did It Win?: No.

Exploring the drug trade between the United States and Mexico, the lives of many people are impacted as their stories are seemingly woven together. Judge and "drug czar" Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas) deals with his honor student/drug addicted daughter Caroline (Erika Christensen), all while trying to stop the influx of drugs being imported into the United States. Meanwhile, Javier Rodriguez (Benicio Del Toro), a Mexican Federale, is trying to stop drug exportation from Mexico's side, but is hindered by corruption within his own government. In San Diego, Carlos Ayala (Steven Bauer) has just been indicted on federal drug trafficking charges. His pregnant wife Helena (Catherine Zeta-Jones), after their assets have been seized by the government, has to find a way to make the money necessary to pay off her husband's debts to the Obregón cartel, even that means getting involved in the drug business herself.

We live right down the street from where part of this movie was filmed. #HumbleBrag

BigJ had seen this movie many years ago when it was first released and liked it enough, but thought it was too depressing and put it in the back of his mind. For a long time, he seemed to resist movies involving drugs because they made him uncomfortable. After many years of desensitization, he has now become more tolerant of them, especially if they are Oscar nominated like this one. Upon re-watching it, he now appreciates it much more, and I liked it a lot as well...well, as much as a person can like a movie about drug trafficking and the worst parts of humanity.

It's still extremely depressing in particular situations, most notably the story of Caroline Wakefield, the daughter of a wealthy politician and honor's student who had all the advantages life has to offer. We watch her character spiral slowly out of control, deeper and deeper into drug addiction, eventually resorting to stealing and whoring herself out for drug money. She's obviously rebelling against the one thing her father has made his livelihood from, and doing what will hurt him the most. We like the fact that she is portrayed as an outgoing honor's student. Having her be this type of person does away with the stereotype that drug users are bad in school or are anti-social outcasts that are so often portrayed in film and television.

Beyond this, there is a lot of top-notch acting in this film, though a few performances of the many stand out as being especially good. Benicio Del Toro won an Oscar for his portrayal of Javier Rodriguez and was one of the best performances in this movie. He's not a perfect cop, he doesn't absolutely do good all the time, but he still has a conscience though his flaws. You can see the concern in his face, though the character himself is always very stoic. Catherine Zeta-Jones starts out as a naive, whiny, upper-crust housewife but ends up turning into a ruthless boss bitch with little remorse for the people who have wronged her and her husband. Don Cheadle might be slightly underutilized here, but the time he is on screen, he does a fantastic job. He makes acting look easy and natural.

This has probably been said many times before, but Steven Soderbergh does a brilliant job with his use of color and different film stocks. At first, we thought the differentiation of color between the story lines would get distracting, but it wasn't, and we really liked his use of this technique. There's not much to say about the war on drugs that hasn't already been said. Someone exports, someone else imports, someone profits, someone tries to stop the drug trade altogether, and when they are removed from power, someone else pops up as leader. We like how Soderbergh doesn't shy away from the futility of the war on drugs itself. In fact, it is discussed heavily throughout the film and he acknowledges this endless cycle of violence and moral outrage. The intricate way he weaves the story together from each perspective is quite effective in making its point.

There is a small part in this film, however, that we take issue with as San Diegans. It describes a location as "La Jolla, California, just outside of San Diego." We want to this CRYSTAL CLEAR: La Jolla IS NOT, we repeat, IS NOT "just outside" of San Diego. It's less than 5 minutes away from where we live, AND WE LIVE IN THE CITY OF SAN DIEGO. The people of La Jolla will tell you they are their own city, which is complete and utter bullshit. They "BOUGHT" their "rights" to be called "a city" when really, they are just one of the richest suburbs of San Diego that feel the need to call themselves something they are not in an effort to make themselves feel more important and to establish their status as living in the community of La Jolla!!!! /end rant

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!
One year ago, we were watching: "Paranoia"

No comments:

Post a Comment