When I first saw Traffic, I was surprised it was made. Not because I believe it’s some sort of an achievement as an artistic venture. Nor because I believe it “blew the roof off” of how flawed the War on Drugs actually it. It surprised me because I didn’t think there was much an audience for it, or certainly not the way it was handled. People usually praise Traffic for not taking sides, though if you were either left or right wing enough you can find enough to bitch about that you could consider it either a left or right wing movie. I don’t believe a movie being bipartisan or politically unaffliated deserves any sort of praise in and off itself because there are plenty of great films that are great because and in spit off their politically leanings.
All in all, Traffic fits the Academy Award description of what a great movie is. It steadily goes down the checklist with good/great acting by the men and women, it’s nicely shot, good story, decent soundtrack, serious film, and it has a message in line with the politics at the time. It in fact won several awards including Best Picture. I don’t list these to say that because something was nominated or won certain Oscars it’s a bad movie. I’m just framing the discussion to why, while I admire it, it doesn’t do much for me.
Traffic featured plenty of acclaim for it’s portrayl of the drug war and the United States. It was surprising to many people that an upper class student would first get into drugs (crack of all things) not by some black drug dealer on the corner, but from a fellow member of the exclusive club of the white upper class. Nor did the know the futility of the drug war, insofar as how much drugs still actively get through despite the fact the more money keeps going in. Or maybe the extent to the cruelty that drug lords would go through and the measures they take to not get discovered.
Unfortunately for myself, this wasn’t illuminating to me. I’ve had people in my family sell and do drugs. Hell, my grandfather’s country of birth (Panama) gave life and legend to one of the most famous drug dealers of all time, Noriega. This is basically the primary reason that the movie does nothing for me, because it offers nothing outside the fact that the War on Drugs is complex and multi-faceted. None of the stories shown are given much time for me to invest in beyond the fact that they exist and are all genuine possibilities.
Had it been a more personalized story like Maria Full of Grace I would have probably enjoyed it more. But, it’s not fair to evualate a movie based on what it isn’t and ultimately what it has no intention of being. So all I can do is admire Traffic for putting forth and topic and making an earnest effort.