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If there is a war on drugs, then many of our family members are the enemy. And I don't know how you wage war on your own family.—Robert Wakefield
A 2000 crime Drama directed by Steven Soderbergh, Traffic was adapted from the 1989 BBC miniseries Traffik. With an All-Star Cast headed by Michael Douglas, his future wife Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Benicio Del Toro in his Oscar-winning performance, Traffic also won three other Oscars, including Best Director, only missing out on Best Picture to Gladiator.
In Mexico, officer Javier Rodriguez is assigned to investigate the drug trade by one General Salazar. Meanwhile, in Washington, politician Robert Wakefield is appointed the new drug czar just as he learns his daughter is an addict herself. In San Diego, two DEA agents finally arrest drug Kingpin Carlos Ayala. Ayala's wife, Helena, upon learning of her husband's true profession, takes action to insure his freedom, and her own financial security. As more secrets and lies are revealed, these characters learn that the war on Drugs isn't as straightforward as it seems.
The movie has many layers of Truth in Television, being a highly dramatized amalgamation of the lives of real people and very common or highly plausible events.
This Film features examples of:
- All-Star Cast: Featuring Benecio Del Toro, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Don Cheadle, Topher Grace, Dennis Quad, and Benjamin Bratt.
- Black and Grey Morality: One of the key themes of the film.
- Bulletproof Vest: Somewhat realistically done, as Don Cheadle's character gets shot at point blank and is momentarily winded. However, he's up and running again not too long after.
- Bury Your Gays: The assassin approaching Del Toro's character in a gay bar leads to his Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique.
- The Cameo: Salma Hayek has one brief scene as a drug lord's wife.
- The Cartel
- Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Each of the four interleaving stories has its own location-based colour cast
- Dig Your Own Grave: Both (comparatively) honest Mexican cops are made to do this.
- Dirty Cop: More than one, including a general.
- Truth in Television: Corrupt cops are nothing new, and the Mexican general is largely based on José de Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo, a former division general in the Mexican army.
- Downer Ending: Almost averted. The good guys (mostly) make it through well enough, but the bad guys get away, although one of the cops is making progress investigating Helena and appears confident he'll be busting her in due time. Certainly more cheerful than, say, The Wire.
- Drugs Are Bad: The main character that is seen to be a drug user ends up appearing to have to whore herself out to get drugs.
- Fridge Logic: An in-universe example. Wakefield is told that the amount of drugs stopped at the border has risen by X. A viewer may think that's a good thing, until Wakefield asks if that means that the total amount of drugs people are trying to get through the border has also risen by X. The answer is yes.
- Functional Addict: Seth, Wakefield's daughter's boyfriend, appears to be this. At least when compared to his girlfriend.
- Manolo, del Toro's character's partner, is subtly implied to be this.
- Wakefield himself is accused of alcoholism by his wife.
- Gayngster: The Assassin.
- Good Cop, Bad Cop: At first the assassin is violently tortured, and then is "rescued" from his captors by the corrupt general; the torturer's boss. He is given a sumptuous meal and a bottle of wine, finally releasing the desired information after being told "in vino veritas".
- Hookers and Blow: The good news - it's Erika Christensen. The bad - she is desperate, humiliated, and barely conscious.
- Inherent in the System: The war on drugs.
- Knight in Sour Armour: Montel to a tee.
"The worst part about you, Monty, is that you realise the futility of what you're doing and you do it anyway."
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: The assassin is given one.
- Karma Houdini: Carlos Ayala gets away with everything, the sole witness against him having been assassinated on the day of his testimony.
- Arguably, both Wakefield's daughter and her boyfriend. The former would have ruined her own life, were it not for her wealthy and resourceful father, while the latter suffers no consequences from getting his girlfriend hooked on crack.
- The Man: Montel and Ray briefly discuss wanting to bring down The Man when working on busting Carlos:
Ray: I have actually dreamt about this, about busting the top people, the rich people, WHITE people!
- Moral Guardians: Wakefield's job is to be this, regarding drugs, for an entire country. Meanwhile, however, his own house is not quite in order.
- Noodle Implements: A variation of the Ginger Beer Trick variety of this trope is used with a Coke bottle.
- Perfect Poison: Averted, since the informant dies from eating poisoned breakfast that he complains "tastes like shit."
- Real Is Brown: Different color palettes are used for different scenes. Those taking place in Mexico are shaded brown, while some scenes set in America have a blue tint.
- The Remake: Originally a British miniseries, revolving around heroin from Pakistan rather than cocaine from Mexico. The movie itself was eventually remade by the USA Network as a three part miniseries.
- Those Two Guys: Montel and Ray. Leads to Mood Whiplash when Ray is blown up by Frankie Flowers' carbomb.
- Throwing Out the Script: Wakefield interrupts himself in the middle of a carefully prepared, approved speech to make an emotional (though vague) reference to his drug-addicted daughter.
- Van in Black: Played with. Helena, wife to a drug dealer who is in custody and under investigation, brings lemonade to the cops keeping an eye on her house.