In Traffic, many stories intersect each other. A wife in an upstanding community realizes her husband has been running a drug company. Two Mexican police officers track down traffickers in Tijuana. Two American officers keep undercover in their van. And a Judge appointed by the President to tackle this war, discovers that his teenage daughter is an addict.
The stories are moving and each character has as much motivation as the next, but at times it does get confusing. One moment in Mexico right next to another in Washington, at some points, they don’t seem connected other than the fact that it’s about drugs. When you sit down afterwards and think it through, yes, it all fits together, but it involves some brain power.
One way director Steven Soderbergh tries to keep all the stories straight is his use of filter colors. In Mexico, everything is a tan yellow, like a washed out western in the bright southern sun. In Washington and Ohio, with the Judge and his daughter, everything is blue, cold and sad up north. Scenes with the wife and undercover Americans, there is no filter. My guess to explain this choice is because their two stories intersect best with the others. And you can’t make everything tan and blue.
Now, the story line that is most likely to resonate with the average person is the story of the Judge and his daughter. One can view it as typical teenage rebellion against the old man’s work that turns into something much more serious. The film doesn’t preach too much about the dangers of drug use. Once it shows the lifestyle and risks along with it, there’s no need.
In a scene where the daughter and her teenage friends are getting high, I couldn’t help listening too much into their conversation. At first glance, they sound like stupid kids high as a kite, but after a moment, it sounded like a modern day Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye. They complain about how fake and full of shit society makes everyone, but they’re stupid and won’t even call an ambulance when a friend overdoses. I wonder if that’s what Soderbergh intended, or if I’m just full of shit.
Parents with teenagers should watch Traffic with caution. This movie could cause some needless paranoia.
“We act like we have all the answers and we’re totally invincible, like our parents seem and their parents before them, and I’m sorry, that I have to be the one to say this, but it’s fucking bullshit.”