8 June 2002 | bob the moo
Involving, informative and unbiased look at the drug problem
In Mexico Officer Javier Rodriquez Rodriquez is stuck in the middel of a country where the drug dealers and the police work hand in hand and murder is rife. In the USA the head of one of the cartels Javier is trying to close is taken to court by the DEA who have an informant (Eduardo Ruiz) in the custody of Agents Montel Gordon and Ray Castro, leaving his wife, Helena, to take care of his business. Over all this a new drug czar is appointed who begins to find that the war on drugs is not as simple as it seems and that it is a war raged in his own home.
Based on the channel 4 series Traffik this is an open-minded intelligent look at the war on drugs. Looking at the problem across several interlinking stories allows us to hear everyone's side to see the internal problems in Mexico, to see the futility of the DEA's actions even to see the scope of the problem facing the US political machine as it tries to fight a war against the drugs trade on all sides. The stories are told with out over doing it action happens without pomp or fanfare, explosions happen in silence, killings are brutal, swift and final. This is not an action movie. The thoughtful nature means the film moves slowly and, if you're not used to following stories then it may frustrate you. However those wishing something to get you thinking, during and after the film should be rewarded.
The film is intelligent far beyond the subject matter. The direction and editing is perfect. The scenes in Mexico are all yellow and washed out giving a desolate feeling, the scenes in political America are given a blue hue to give a colder, detached feel to the business while the scenes with the DEA are noticeably bright and realistic. This is typical of the intelligence put into the film it rewards you the more you watch it. The casting is another example of how right the film is.
Del Toro is perfect he gets the moodiness spot on but also has a fun side to his character. Cheadle and Guzman are as good as they always are and play off each other well they have an element of the `buddy cop' couple without becoming caricatures. Douglas is really good how often can you say that!? His young wife is also very good I expected her to be the weak link but she gave a good performance. These are the main players but really the cast is deep in quality from those that have bigger roles (Quaid, Bratt, Miguel Ferrer) to those that essentially have only a few lines (Albert Finney, Peter Riegert).
The strength of the film is that it lets you work it out yourself. It never goes one way or the other on the drugs issue and leaves you to decide for yourself what should happen. This is rare in an `issue' film and it should be commended. The film allows long silences for us to think but yet is never boring or dull.
Overall this is a really good film. It is shorter and more polished than the mini-series it came from, but it is very intelligently done and is though-provoking. Anyone who thinks they are sure of their stance on drugs should watch this no matter what you think this will highlight the fact that it is a complex problem to which there is no simple solution. Excellent.