Synopsis by Michael Hastings
Described by director Steven Soderbergh as "Nashville meets The French Connection," this multi-character drama explores the effects of international drug trafficking on all fronts: from their source, to the U.S. border, to the federal government, to the private lives of users. Based upon a miniseries originally aired on Britain's Channel 4, Traffic divides its time among three main storylines and almost a dozen locales. The first and primary plot thread, set in Ohio and Washington, D.C., concerns freshly-appointed drug czar Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas), whose enthusiasm for his new prestige position is quickly offset when he realizes his 16-year-old daughter Caroline (Erika Christensen) is graduating from recreational drug use to habitual abuse -- a secret that his wife, Barbara (Amy Irving), has kept from him. South of the border, Mexican cop Javier Rodriguez (Benicio Del Toro) attempts to wage his own war on drugs, heading off a cocaine shipment in the middle of the desert with his less-than-virtuous partner Manolo Sanchez (Jacob Vargas). Surrounded by corruption, Javier approaches the drug war with an attitude of patience and compromise, which opens him up to investigation from General Arturo Salazar (Tomas Milian), the country's dubious drug-enforcement liaison to the U.S. Meanwhile, San Diego drug kingpin Carlos Alaya (Steven Bauer) is caught in a sting operation spearheaded by DEA agents Montel Gordon (Don Cheadle) and Ray Castro (Luis Guzman), leaving behind his very pregnant and very oblivious wife, Helena (Catharine Zeta-Jones). At the behest of Carlos' lawyer and shady confidante, Arnie Metzger (Dennis Quaid), Helena decides to carry on the family business -- with tragic consequences. Adapted by Rules of Engagement scribe Stephen Gaghan, Traffic marked Soderbergh's second major release in 2000 after the critical and box-office success of Erin Brockovich, as well as his second feature as cinematographer (credited under the pseudonym Peter Andrews). A favorite with various guild and critics' awards, Traffic won four Academy Awards in 2001, including statues for Best Supporting Actor (Del Toro) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Gaghan), and surprise wins for Steven Mirrone's editing and Soderbergh's direction.
DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), drug-ring, US-government, border [geographic], Mexican [nationality], partner, police-officer, wife, conservative, daughter, judge, drug-addiction
High Artistic Quality