The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Movie Review:
"Traffic"

Mar 5, 2001

The film, "Traffic," a film about the illegal drug trade, is still playing in selected theatres. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, and starring Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Don Cheadle, and Dennis Quaid, among others, the film realistically portrays the many layers of the drug trafficking industry.

Douglas plays the U.S. president's choice to head the Drug Enforcement Agency in leading the so-called "war on drugs." One of the agency's efforts includes the arrest of an important American drug importer, the husband of Zeta-Jones' character. His wife initially is unaware of his involvement in the drug trade, knowing only about his "legitimate" businesses which are in fact money-laundering fronts.

The film also illustrates the drug trade on the Mexican side of the border. Two Mexican policemen eager to bust up a drug shipment are stopped by a Mexican general who pretends to be carrying out his own efforts to bring down the drug traffickers. In reality, the general is simply working hand in hand with one drug cartel in its drive to destroy a rival cartel. The two policemen are unwittingly drawn into helping the general with his effort.

The movie also illustrates the effects of drugs on their users, through the lives of the DEA head's daughter and her friends. These wealthy suburban kids find excitement through using drugs. One of them, however, dies of an overdose. After her DEA chief father catches her using drugs and ships her off to a drug rehab facility, she escapes and returns to her drug dealer, prostituting herself in exchange for drugs.

The film makes the U.S. government appear to be more earnestly fighting the drug war than the Mexican government. Nevertheless, the film generally provides a good look at the many players involved in the drug trade. And it shows something of the way the "war on drugs" is used by politicians for their own political gain.