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  • Traffic

    Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on May 9th, 2003

    (out of 5)

    Traffic sports an A cast and a pretty compelling story. The only real thing holding it back is that there are times the plot is too ambitious. It gets weary following the three distinct storylines. You might also find the ending a bit of a letdown. I was expecting something far more dramatic given the intense buildup over two and a half hours. Michael Douglas is the main star and gives us a fine performance, but I was more captivated by the character of Mexican cop Javier Rodriguez, played with excellent flair by Benicio Del Toro.

    There are three very intense storylines being told in this film:

    1. Robert Wakefield (Douglas) has just been appointed by his friend the President as the nation’s new Drug Czar. While he tries to familiarize himself with the complicated problem, he must also face a personal crisis. His daughter has been seduced by cocaine.
    2. Javier Rodriguez (Del Toro) is a Mexican police officer who is brought in on the overwhelming corruption of Mexico’s drug fighters by the local drug cartels. He must risk his life and family to try to help the U.S. uncover the corruption.
    3. When her husband is arrested for drug trafficking, Helena Ayala (Zeta-Jones) takes over his troubled drug trade.


    We have two audio tracks to choose from. There is an adequate Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a 2-channel track that is advertised as a late night “atmospheric” option. The problem is there is no noticeable distinction between these tracks except during rare violent and explosive scenes. This is a dialogue-driven film and in that at least it delivers. Dialogue is almost always easy to pick up with the notable exception of some of the Mexican Spanish speaking scenes where suitable sub-titles make up for the mix. There’s nothing aggressive in the 5.1 mix. Sub power remains nominal.


    Traffic is presented in its original theatric aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Steven Soderbergh decided to experiment wildly with artistic photography. Most noticeable is the yellow filter used during the Mexico scenes. I found the technique to be distracting, but the disc handles the various optical flourishes very well. There is no question but that a bad transfer could make this film almost unwatchable. The transfer is clean. I found no film specks or other artifacts. There is considerable grain at times, but once again credit this to Soderbergh’s style and not a faulty transfer. Lighting is inconsistent, making this disc quite a challenge to the disc mastering crew. Colors are also manipulated in the name of atmosphere. Blacks are deep and show considerable detail considering the extensive color correction used on the film. I never saw this film in the theatre, but I expect the transfer is quite accurate.

    Special Features

    Not much here. A brief documentary called “Inside Traffic” offers nothing spellbinding. There’s an extensive stills gallery that’s worth one view. Finally, a series of trailers is all we have to speak of.

    Final Thoughts

    The film is based on a BBC miniseries called Traffik. This film version is certainly more stylish. The British version plays more like a documentary on the drug traffic itself. A slight controversy was also settled with the release of the DVD. In the film Caroline tells the drug councilor she is from Cincinnati Country Day high school. But a lawsuit by the school forced the filmmakers to replace the answer with simply private school in all home video releases of the film. If you like the film, you’ll find this a fair release, although a few more extras would have been nice. If you’ve never seen the film, “you wanna try something?”

    Posted In: 1.85:1 Widescreen, Disc Reviews, Dolby Digital 2.0 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Drama, DVD, Universal

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