The film weaves 3 different plots involving the war on drugs which criss cross without ever truly connecting (none of the 3 major stars ever speak to each other). Michael Douglas plays an Ohio based State Supreme Court judge recently appointed to the post as National Drug Czar, Caterine Zeta-Jones plays a LaJolla, California socialite housewife whose husband is arrested, and Benecio Del Toro is a Mexican state police officer in Tijuana. All three learn various truths about the lives they've lived and the lies they uncover shake their beliefs. The best performance without a doubt belongs to Del Toro. A truly decent man who only wants the streets safe for kids, Del Toro is threatened, coerced, betrayed and brought to the edge of a breakdown simply because he wants to do the right thing. His problem...whom to trust. In what I felt was an eerie parallel to Orson Welles border tale "Touch of Evil", Del Toro's character Javier Rodriguez, passes back and forth between Mexico and the US borders in what plays as a symbol for crossing the line of good and evil. Del Toro displays a quiet nobility which is how the film plays out as well. It is relatively free of flash, it is shot in large part with a digital camera, and is absent (for the most part) any preachiness, leaving the moral judgements to the audience. Even Zeta-Jones isn't without some sympathy, she is 6 months pregnant and shunned by her neighbors, and her 4 year old son is threatened by a drug cartel. Douglas' performance highlights what is really and ensemble cast that includes Don Cheadle as a DEA agent, Dennis Quaid, James Brolin and Albert Finney. Traffic is a moving, inventive, yet quiet film that may trumpet what the 21st century of filmmaking will become.
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