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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - May, 2010

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"Traffic" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-may-2010-traffic

Synopsis

Traffic is a look at the world of illegal drugs from several perspectives.  There are three storylines that at first seem unrelated.  First, we see two Mexican policemen who with their minimal resources and battling massive corruption, attempt to enforce the law against two different drug cartels.  Second, a pair of DEA agents works undercover to arrest a small-time drug distributor in hopes he can lead them to the ringleaders.  Finally, an ambitious judge is appointed the US’s new drug czar while trying to save his own teen-aged daughter from serious addiction.  It’s an intense portrayal of the horrible effects narcotics can have, not only on the users but everyone involved.

 

 

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 2000, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 28 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Douglas, Luis Guzman, Dennis Quaid, Catherine Zeta-Jones
  • Directed by Steven Soderbergh
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

This film is one of the most intense I’ve ever seen.  It’s shot in a cinema verite style that is completely appropriate to the subject matter.  The reality of the drug trade couldn’t be any grittier than it is in Traffic.  The A-list cast does a superb job in every respect.  Benicio Del Toro won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Mexican Policeman Javier Rodriguez.  Michael Douglas as the drug czar with an addicted daughter leaves us in no doubt of his pain and anguish.  Don Cheadle plays the hard-working and frustrated San Diego detective trying to make a difference.  Catherine Zeta-Jones as a drug distributor’s wife plays the ignorant spouse to a T.  Her character creates a plot twist I didn’t see coming at all.  Despite the subject matter, violence is shown sparingly without any over-the-top gore or action.  The message comes across clearly but won’t turn your stomach.  The great acting and unique filming style combine for a high level of production quality.  I’ve rarely seen such an effective use of interpretive color or film grain.  All-in-all, I would highly recommend this movie.

Technical

The image quality is very good and I believe faithful to the original film.  Soderbergh uses a variety of different color palettes and some very interesting film grain effects to create different environments.  Mexico is a strong, almost mono-chromatic yellow with heavy grain and added edge enhancement.  You can feel the hot and dusty climate from your seat.  Ohio and Washington DC are shot through a strong blue filter.  Again the effect is mono-chromatic.  Most of the scenes in San Diego are shot with natural color and minimal grain.  It’s all very effective at letting you know which story you’re watching at any given time.  Scenes with natural color showed a bit of red in the flesh tones but excellent sharpness and detail.  Filtered material was very flat; by design I think.  The Mexico story showed so much film grain the image was, at most times, softer than standard def.  Again, I believe this is by design.  Contrast is good with deep blacks and very bright whites.  Detail is sometimes crushed at both end of the scale.

Audio was superb and realistic.  Voices and sound effects were mixed very well with clear detail and a wide soundstage.  Though this is a dialog-driven film, ancillary sounds like the rustle of paper or the click of telephone buttons were exceptionally clean and crisp.  Music is used very sparingly and only during scene transitions, never during dialog.  The score by composer Cliff Martinez creates just the right mood with its bass and electronic effects.  Again, this element is completely appropriate for the subject matter.

Extras

Bonus features are limited to an 18-minute short entitled Inside Traffic and 24 deleted scenes.