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With all the accolades and Oscars heaped up it, there is no question that TRAFFIC ($27) was one of the best films of 2000. TRAFFIC is also one of the most frightening movies I've ever seen. Not because TRAFFIC is scary, but because it depicts the horrors of the drug war the United States continues to wage, despite the fact that the war can never be won as long as there is a demand for product on this side of the U.S./Mexican border. TRAFFIC weaves together several powerful tales of the drug trade; moving through producers, corrupt and non-corrupt government officials, dealers, users and law enforcement.

The ensemble cast features Michael Douglas as a judge who is named to be the country's new drug czar, only to discover that his own teenage daughter is an addict. Benicio Del Toro earned an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as the Mexican cop who fights the good fight, despite all the corruption that surrounds him. Catherine Zeta-Jones gives an impressive performance as the pregnant country club wife, who is shocked to discover that her husband earned his money through the drug trade and is then forced to carry on the family business, when her world spins completely out of control. Oscar winning director Steven Soderbergh's masterful orchestration of the crisscrossing story lines keeps the audience totally involved with the characters, as the tension continues to build during the film's entire two and half hour running time. The superb ensemble cast of TRAFFIC also features Benjamin Bratt, Don Cheadle, James Brolin, Dennis Quaid, Erika Christensen, Luis Guzmán, Miguel Ferrer, Albert Finney, Topher Grace, Amy Irving, Peter Riegert and an uncredited Salma Hayek.

USA Home Video has made the Ultimate Edition of TRAFFIC available in a 1.85:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. TRAFFIC is a stylized movie that has a rather gritty look, which has been accurately transferred to DVD. Colored filters have been applied to portions of the cinematography and many sequences are purposefully grainy. This look triggers an emotional response in the viewer, but doesn't always produce an attractive image on the DVD. Still, much of the time the image is crisp and very well defined. Colors are strongly rendered with complete stability and no traces of smearing. Flesh tones are accurate in unfiltered sequences, but at other times, everything looks as it should. Blacks are solid and the picture produces a good level of shadow detail. The dual layer DVD doesn't display any appreciable signs of digital compression artifacts.

TRAFFIC is primarily dialogue driven, so the Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack never tries to overwhelm the story. The mix is solid, but not flashy. There is a stronger presence in the forward soundstage than there is in the rear channels. Sound effects are used intermittently, but always in a completely convincing manner. Dialogue is crisp and precisely rendered. The bass channel is solid enough when it needs to be, but otherwise maintains a low profile. An English Dolby Surround soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. Topping things off is the featurette Inside Traffic, which runs a couple minutes shy of twenty. The featurette is a standard PR piece with cast and filmmaker interviews. Also included on the disc is a still gallery, plus three theatrical trailers and five television spots.

TRAFFIC is a high impact motion picture that deserved more than the Oscar nomination for Best Picture that it received. The film is as thought provoking, as it is entertaining. While the DVD is a bit short on supplements, USA Home Video's presentation is first rate. If you are considering checking out TRAFFIC, make sure you do so on DVD.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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