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A patchwork of stories about various factions of the drug trade, including dealers, abusers and the law enforcement officials who pursue them. Mexican policeman Javier Rodriguez works on and around the border with his close friend and fellow policeman Manolo Sanchez, under Mexico's number one crime fighter, General Salazar. Confronted with temptations of power and money, Javier resists them but finds himself--and Manolo--caught in a web of corruption that leads to an untenable situation. Back in the U.S., Ohio State Supreme Court Justice Robert Wakefield is named by the president as the new antidrug czar. Collecting information, the uncompromising and conservative Wakefield prepares to supervise the country's task forces and partner them with Mexico's. But, at home, he and his wife Barbara must deal with their increasingly drug-addicted teenage daughter Caroline. In San Diego, undercover DEA agents Montel Gordon and Ray Castro work overtime to help the U.S. government build its case against the infamous Obregon drug cartel. Their bust of midlevel drug trafficker Eduardo Ruiz pays off when their new prisoner cuts a deal to testify against wealthy drug baron Carlos Ayala, who lives in the upscale suburbs. Carlos is arrested, shocking his unknowing and pregnant wife Helena. Helena and her son are quickly threatened by her husband's associates and tailed by the DEA agents. Enlisting the aid of attorney Arnie Metzger. Helena vows to get Carlos out of jail and keep her children safe-- even if it means taking over her husband's business.
For more about Traffic and the Traffic Blu-ray release, see Traffic Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on January 4, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Luis Guzmán, Dennis Quaid, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Director: Steven Soderbergh
» See full cast & crew
Traffic Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, January 4, 2012
Winner of four Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Steven Soderbergh's "Traffic" (2000) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include original theatrical trailers and teasers; three audio commentaries; deleted scenes; film processing, editing, and dialog editing demonstrations; unedited footage; and more. The Blu-ray disc also arrives with a small booklet featuring film critic Manohla Dargis' essay "Border Wars". In English and Spanish, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
There is a lot of talk in Steven Soderbergh's Traffic about drugs, but the film is actually about very powerful and very weak people involved in an unusual war. In the beginning of the film some the people look distant, at the end they look a lot like people we all know.
An ambitious judge (Michael Douglas, Wall Street) from Ohio is appointed the U.S. drug czar. In Washington D.C., a well respected general warns him that like his predecessor he is likely to fail because he will be fighting a war that cannot be won. The judge decides to prove the general wrong.
On the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico, two cops arrest two drug traffickers and confiscate their cargo. The first cop (Benicio del Toro, Che) informs them that their lives are about to change. Moments later, a Mexican general (Tomas Milian, The Designated Victim) and his men stop the cops and inform them that they will take care of the drug traffickers.
In L.A., a drug distributor (Miguel Ferrer, The Harvest) is arrested by two DEA agents (Don Cheadle and Luis Guzman). Later on, the man agrees to testify against the area's biggest supplier (Steven Bauer, Scarface) in exchange for immunity. When the supplier is arrested, his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Entrapment) is threatened by his business partners. Unsure how to react, she contacts the family lawyer (Dennis Quaid, The Day After Tomorrow).
Back in Cincinnati, Ohio, the judge's daughter (Erika Christensen, Swimfan) is arrested after one of her friends ODs. When the judge returns home, he is shocked to discover that his daughter has become an addict. After he confronts her, she disappears.
Traffic is not a preachy political film, but many of the great observations it produces are about politics and politicians. For example, the film argues that globalization has created criminal networks that are far more powerful and far better organized than the various government agencies that are supposed to fight them. The film also shows how these criminal networks operate and why they are practically impossible to eliminate.
Ultimately, however, the film is about the two groups of people that allow the networks to exist. The first group is composed of politicians living in the Washington bubble, politicians who have been bought by the drug cartels and ambitious men who have teamed up to make money. These are people obsessed with power. The second group is composed of angry suburban teenagers, lower income and immigrant groups. These people are the first group's targets – the consumers and their providers.
Soderbergh's film was inspired by the British mini-series Traffik, which also offer a fascinating look at the drug trade and its global power base. Traffic, however, is far more precise in its identification of the factors that have allowed the drug trade to blossom in recent years.
The film is brilliantly lensed. Using a variety of different filters, Soderbergh has infused the Mexico episodes with warm and washed out colors and positioned them against a wide range of cold and metallic colors in the U.S. episodes. The frame composition and movement - apparently inspired by the work of acclaimed director Ken Loach - are also very original, particularly during the chase sequences.
Though only Del Toro was awarded an Oscar, the entire cast is superb. Ferrer, for instance, is rarely, if ever, mentioned in reviews, but he is as impressive as Douglas, Milian, Cheadle, Guzman, and Zeta-Jones.
The film also benefits from a very atmospheric soundtrack courtesy of long-time Soderbergh collaborator Cliff Martinez (The Limey, Solaris, Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive).
Traffic Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Steven Soderbergh's Traffic arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"Traffic is presented in the director's preferred aspect ratio of 1.78:1. This high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm interpositive. At the request of the director, the English subtitles for the Spanish sequences are presented as they were on U.S. film prints, rather than as optional subtitles. Both the full 5.1 theatrical soundtrack and the restricted-dynamic-range 2.0 soundtrack were mastered from the original 24-bit print masters.
Telecine supervisors: Steven Soderbergh, Larry Blake, Keith Sauter.
Telecine colorist: Michael Bellamy/Universal Studios Digital Services, Universal City, CA."
The presentation is quite difficult to evaluate because of the unique filtering and color adjustments performed by director Steven Soderbergh and his team. The Mexican episodes, in particular, have a very unusual look which favors blown-out contrast and edge sharpening similar but not identical to those seen in director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's 21 Grams. What is clear, to me, however, is that post production sharpening has not been performed (if you study the indoor sequences where light is restricted, you will see that additional corrections have not been applied - see screencapture #4). Furthermore, the preferred by the director 1.78:1 ratio tightens up the image composition, but while viewing the film the adjustment is next to impossible to appreciate. There are no color discrepancies with the Universal Studios release either. Brightness levels also appear identical. The Criterion release, however, appears to have an edge over the Universal Studios release with better compression. This is easy to see during a few of the outdoor sequences with Catherine Zeta-Jones (see the lunch sequence - screencapture #10). Finally, there are no problematic specs, scratches, or debris to report in this review. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Traffic Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (with portions of Spanish). For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles. However, as requested by director Steven Soderbergh, the English subtitles during the Spanish sequences cannot be turned off.
Traffic is complimented by an outstanding minimalistic/ambient soundtrack courtesy of award winning composer Cliff Martinez, who has worked with director Steven Soderbergh on some of his very best films. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 enhances the surrealistic overtones very well, but one must remember that the film is actually in mono, which is why the overall range of nuanced dynamics is rather limited. However, when the music enters the film the dramatic transition from mono to loseless surround sound is very effective. The dialog is consistently crisp, clean, stable, and very easy to follow. Also, there are no sync issues or distortions to report in this review.
Traffic Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Traffic Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
For as long as there is demand, there will be supply. This is why the War on Drugs cannot be won through conventional means. I am, however, firmly convinced that education and higher living standards can seriously affect both demand and supply. Steven Soderbergh's Traffic is an outstanding film that identifies some of the key factors that have allowed the drug trade to blossom in recent years, as well as how drugs can destabilize entire regions. Criterion's presentation of the film is excellent. The Blu-ray also contains a large amount of very informative supplemental features. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Traffic: Other Editions
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Traffic Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion Blu-ray in January: Buñuel, Rosi, Honda, and Soderbergh - October 14, 2011
The Criterion Collection has announced four titles for Blu-ray release in January. On January 17th, the independent studio will release Belle de jour (Luis Buñuel, 1967) and Traffic (Steven Soderbergh, 2000). A week later, on January 24th it will release The Moment ...
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