Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic tells so many stories intertwined into one unique story that one can’t help but be drawn into what we’re viewing. The story involves many different characters including, Javier and Manolo (Benicio Del Toro and Jacob Vargas), newly appointed Presidential Drug Czar Bob Wakefield (Michael Douglas), daughter Caroline (Erika Christensen), Drug Enforcement agents Castro (Luiz Guzman) and Gordeon (Don Cheadle), drug kingpin Carlos Ayala (Steven Bauer) and his wife (Catherina Zeta-Jones). < ...p>
Traffic deals with the issue of drug trafficking, and drugs in general. Soderbergh presents all the aforementioned characters in this drug world giving each character their own story resulting in each story containing a purpose and a point that makes us get involved. What we eventually learn is that the film isn’t necessarily about drug lords like Carlos Ayala trafficking drugs, but rather trafficking a part that belongs in everyone’s life, as we find out in the film.
Soderbergh has brought his usual unique direction to the table once more. Soderbergh, who was awarded the Best Director statue at the 2000 Oscars for this film, presents all of the characters in their own various worlds doing their own various activities. Even though these characters never come together, via his style of direction where he gives each character not only their own personality but their own type of color and distinction, we sometimes feel that each story must be connected since they all have problems that involve drugs in some manner.
Traffic isn’t a traditional drug film, rather more of a character study. After watching this film, you can easily take away that Soderbergh feels a certain way about the way people in the drug trade are treated, but that is not the most important case here. As mentioned above, the trafficking that is done in the film is obviously drugs in the physical sense, but in the literally sense it is the trafficiking of the human being and its own nature. This is what makes this film so important and a must-see.
The HD-DVD of Traffic arrives courtesy of Universal in a 1080p widescreen 1:85:1 aspect ratio. Considering the interesting direction by Steven Soderbergh (in relevance to his shooting style), Traffic probably looks as good as it ever will on any HD format.
The biggest issue some may have with this transfer is the amount of grain. Personally, the grain appears intentional due to Soderbergh’s visual style of direction. I suppose the message the film conveys allows the grain to showcase the type of world these people are involved in. Colors, on the other hand, seem out of place. Blacks seem overly black creating a few scenes that require one to squint. Whites are too white resulting in scenery that is overly bright and blurred.
Traffic is a mixed bag. Some will hate the transfer due to the expected improvement HD is suppose to have over SD. I found the presented transfer, despite some issues, to be quite fine. This was mainly because I realized that this film is probably the best it will ever look. Very similar to the audio below, the video is nothing demo worthy, but does its job.
Presented in the standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, Traffic isn’t the type of movie that you throw in to demo. With that said, the provided audio track does its’ job, but seemed a bit underwhelming.
Dialogue arrives in a usually clean, but sometimes muddled manner. This is probably due to the mid’s being so high. When you have higher mid’s in a dialogue heavy film, the dialogue tends to come off somewhat muddled, which is the case here. The bass on the other hand, is low and relatively unheard of for a majority of the film. The overall surrounds are presented in a fine manner that is when they can be actually heard without blasting your setup.
The only real scene you may find yourself playing a few times through is the attack on the drug lord’s home. This is where the aforementioned weak surrounds, are presented in a situation that can truly give them breathing room. Guns boom and bullets zoom creating a nice atmosphere. Bass is relatively mild in this scene though. One should not expect a huge rocking soundtrack for Traffic; I didn’t and I came off pleasantly surprised with the end result.
- Inside Traffic: This 12 minute feature is rather dull, vapid and boring. The feature, despite it attempting to be a making of, felt like a story I’d see on Fox News.
- Photo Gallery: It’s pretty sad when you advertise a Photo Gallery under the Special Feature column.
- Trailers: Here we get the film’s Trailer.
- TV Spots: 5 different tv spots for the film are shown.
Traffic cries for attention and usually gets it. Despite the somewhat good video, decent audio, and terrible amount of features, Traffic still demands your attention. Now, if only Criterion had allowed Universal to port over all of the great extra’s.
Special Features List
- Inside Traffic
- Photo Gallery
- TV Spots