Traffic: Criterion has been a long time in coming. I did not pick up the first version of Traffic that came out because there were already rumblings of this release coming in the future. I unfortunately cannot compare the two releases as I do not have the other one, but what is presented here is certainly great.
Traffic, directed by Steven Soderbergh, is a movie about 3 different situations revolving around American drug trafficking. One story is about the new American Drug Czar, Robert Wakefield (played by Michael Douglas), and his beginnings as the new Drug Czar of America. Not only does he have a problem on the international front with the drug traffic, but he also has a problem on the home front. His daughter, Caroline (Erika Christensen), has fallen into drugs with some friends at school. Throughout the movie she gets deeper and deeper into the drug world and goes so far as to have sex for drugs. One of her classmates, Seth Abrahams (Topher Grace), wants to get it on with Caroline and he is the initial catalyst into her drug-induced trials throughout the movie. Robert goes so far as to ask himself how he can be Drug Czar for the US when he cannot even control the drugs in his own home.
Another story centers on Helena Ayala (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a pregnant wife whose husband has been busted for being a drug trafficker. It is obvious that Helena lives the lavish lifestyle, although at first she does not believe her husband is involved with drugs. She ends up figuring out that he indeed lived the life the FBI conveyed to her. She is also in a panic because it is obvious her way of life is being threatened with her husband behind jail and the cartel threatening her already born child (she is still pregnant with another) because her husband owes them money. In the end she uses the FBI's agent, Montel Gordon (Don Cheadle), to her advantage and gets into Mexico shows the drug lord some undetectable new cocaine that has to be diluted before used. Through this her way of life is still safe and she is now the new drug kingpin.
The last story centers around Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez (Benicio Del Toro), a cop in Mexico who is trying to fight the good fight. The sad part is that he is finding out that politics around the area do not conform to the overall good he is trying to do. People on both sides of the border try to persuade Javier to join their side and rat the other side out, but overall he just wants to do the right and good thing. Problem is what is the true right and good thing? This part of the movie is filmed quite a bit differently than the others. There is more of a yellowish tint to the camera and it feels much lower in technology than the US shot parts are. This is an obvious allusion to the fact that Mexico is considered a lower established country than the US is. It also helps this movie a lot in how great it is. Soderbergh has become one of the top directors in the business and he certainly is not pigeon-holing himself into one distinct category of movies.
Overall, Traffic was one of the best movies of 2000 and is presented here in all of its glory. This movie won 4 Academy Awards and deserved every one of them. Soderbergh can do the most awkward of movies (The Limey and the upcoming Full Frontal) and the most mainstream of movies (Ocean's Eleven and Erin Brochovich). He is at his best here in my opinion.
Video: This film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The source is virtually flawless. I saw no problems in the transfer on this disc. I thought it was excellent and the Mexico sequences were as vivid as I remember them in the theater.
Sound: Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 sound, the sound is pretty good. It is sad there was not a DTS track included in this or, from my understanding, the other version. I find it kind of funny that on the back in the credits it actually has the DTS logo on there (this is in the theatrical credits).
Menus: The menus are very static, but easy to cycle through.
Extras: A multitude of extras are found on this 2 disc release.
Audio Commentaries: Three commentaries are included in this release and I have spot checked the last two while listening to most of the first one. The first one is with director Steven Soderberghh and writer Stephen Gagan. The second is with producers Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz and Laura Bickford and consultants Tim Golden and Craig Chretien. The last is with composer Cliff Martinez that features two music cues not included in the final cut of the movie. The first one talks about how this movie was moved over from the Gagan penned BBC miniseries version to the movie screen. It also talks about how the movie was visualized and written. It is an informative track. The other two talk about specific parts in the movie, one with a production theme and one with a music theme. They seem to be very informational, although I have not listened to them both in their totality. That would take close to 10 hours to watch this movie…whew!
25 Deleted Scenes : Most of these center around Catherine Zeta-Jones' character and fleshing her out more than the movie portrays. There are also some extended scenes as well. They seem to have been smart cuts for the movie and I could not imagine how long this movie would be with them. These feature optional commentary from Soderbergh and Gagan as well.
Film Processing Demonstartion: Achieving the Look of the Mexico Sequences: This is the big thing in the extras. It is absolutely mesmerizing to find out how they created the yellowish and old look to the scenes. This is obviously a showing of how much a director's vision is important to a movie. They went through a lot to get these sequences to where they are, but it was obviously well worth it. Gave it a more realistic feel.
Editing Demonstration: Editor Stephen Mirrione walks us through the editing process. He is very easy to understand as he goes through how an original, unedited scene turns into a scene through the director's vision. This was very informative for a section of movie making that is not shown to the common person very much.
Dialogue Editing Demonstration: Sound Editor Larry Blake walks us through how ADR (additional dialogue recording) works and what it takes to get them into their scenes. This is also a section of movie making that is not shown very much, but is very interesting.
30 minutes of additional footage: As if 25 deleted scenes was not enough, there is also 30 minutes of additional footage. Here we are presented with multiple angles of 2 scenes in the movie that pretty much had to be shot in one take, which is why multiple cameras are used. It is not that exciting, but it is neat to see multiple angles on a scene.
Trailers: US Theatrical Trailer, US Teaser Trailer and 5 Television spots. From my understanding these were also in the original release of this movie.
U.S. Customs K9 Squad Trading Cards: Soderbergh and Gagan talk about this during the deleted scenes. This is the whole collection of trading cards on the disc. Although probably totally useless, this just goes to show what depths the filmmakers and Criterion went to for this release.
Final Thoughts: One of the best movies of 2000, Traffic: Criterion is the most complete version of this movie that you can own. Soderbergh is truly a gifted director who is not afraid to take chances with his movies. With special care taken in the Mexican sequences and the virtual equality between the 3 main storylines, Traffic stands as one of the best movies from the past decade in my estimation. This is a DVD Talk Collector's disc through and through with a multitude of extras for you to wade through. Criterion shines yet again.