See what I mean? It just goes on and
There are things in
this film that I disagree with - blaming whites for black drug dealing, the
idea of an inept and unprofessional political appointee sacrificing his power
and agenda for his family (more on that later), an "intelligent" high
school addict speaking directly and disrespectfully to an adult, with no
consequences - not likely. However, in looking at the
dis-ease evident in
the people we meet in this engrossing and creatively souped up NYPDBorder-Blues
cop-o-drama, you can see the results of permissiveness and indirect parenting
The above are simply story points
I find unrealistic. The balance of the film is hard hitting, tough, and despite
more than 2 and a half hours, it keeps interest.
Some creepy druggies, and a fine
mom-turned-psycho drug dealer role by Zeta-Jones, and Benicio Del Toro -
compelling as a border-crossing kidnapping Tijuana state cop - make the minutes
It is every crime story we know
rolled into a fiesta burrito - and shot in a semi-documentary form. Maybe in
thirty years we will look at the tour of the El Paso I C the same way we see
filmic '40's tours of the FBI today. Seemingly very informative - but not
pertinent to tomorrow's society.
Originality meets style is not
the way I'd describe Traffic. It has a very Law and Order, NYPD blue feel to
it, from the point by point journey down the trail of drug arrest to wiretaps
to border intrigue, saturated with details and connecting-the-dots . Visually,
it gives us saturated grainy wet blues for Southern California, and
sepia-browned grit for anything South of the border. It helps keep us clued in
on where we are.
The weak points bear exploration,
because they are virtually signposts to a better tomorrow.
At the heart of the matter is a
seemingly effective man, Wakefield, played by Michael Douglas. He has the
external trappings of power and success, but his home life is rotten to the
core. His daughter is keeping company with addicts, who are getting her
introduced to the good stuff - crack and sex. When a buddy overdoses they ddump
him out at the hospital, trying to save their own wretched asses.
Their cowardice, placing the life
of their 'friend' beneath their own happy little circumstances, is only the
polished tip of their immoral and vacant lives. They think they know
everything, not unusual for teens, but they have absolutely no moral compass
Their disrespect and self-serving hedonism, masquerading as enlightenment, begs
to have the crap knocked out of it. Their imaginations have been limited by the
absolutely free fall of integrity accepted in "society" of the 90's
as de-riguer for a truly "actualized" spirit.
Such spirits are not ennobled,
they are sick.
We cannot exist outside of the
need for companionship and trust. And those things, when not accompanied by
each other, are useless. Topher Grace, in an award winnable performance,
delivers the dis-affected goods.
More brutal than Downey's drug
riddled zombie in Less Than Zero, Grace shows us what pinnacles selfishness can
rise to. And the reflection of that callowness can be seen in the next tier -
the adults smuggling and trading lives and drugs - and yet again those older -
grandpas and the elders, milling about controlling nations and armies and
illicit commerce. it is not a syndrome, it is a system.
Against this disturbing and
genuine backdrop, the submission of Wakefield shows what weakness can do for
you - very little. Where his daughter needs guidance, he substitutes posturing,
where she needs a unified front to tackle her addiction, he caves to his wife's
permissiveness, when given an opportunity to make a real difference, he
attitudes himself out of the job. He is a quitter, but for that matter, he was
not right for the job. He does manage to track down his runaway crack whore
daughter, but he does not deal with the bad guys the way the moment called for,
the way a frantic Dad would.
His final act of immolation is
abandoning his appointment to the War on Drugs, presumably because he cannot
stand the idea of declaring war on his family (as though that were really what
was expected of him), and his excuse is that his family needs him - perhaps the
most shallow turn in the film. There is no doubt that attaining that post would
enable his attack on the causes of drug use and commerce to be of enormous
benefit to socienty and to his ability to treat his family's problems. Not only
that, he would be in a position to approach the problem from the viewpoint of
an involved family member.
How much more courageous it would
have been to take the drug war in a new direction from the moment he was sworn
It came down to feel-good
posturing, I think, instead of taking an adult look at how such an empowered
individual could influence the war on drugs. And if he had chosen the work over
family, and the daughter died, it would have made for very interesting coffee
shop discussions. But it is a small complaint once you get past
Other trust elements run
throughout Traffic, and there is betrayal at almost every turn. In fact, the
story is driven by the inability of drug involved people to trust anyone or
Soderberg has assembled an epic
film with an immense cast. Cradled in the rolling landscape of our turn of the
new century, the immensity and scope of the production is all but invisible.
Until you examine the cast list (below, thanks to IMDB), it is not apparent
that the cast of characters far exceeds that of Cleopatra or Ben Hur, and even
that of Phantom Menace. It does.
I am content to praise this film
for what it is, as opposed to praising it for what some people think it is on
the surface, or want it to be. It is a orchestral work - a full symphony -
playing the familiar chopsticks. We are so attuned to the melody, we ignore the
And I suppose we better start