This decade Michael Douglas is known more for being Catherine Zeta-Jones husband than for being a good actor who has made some great films. Wall Street, Romancing the Stone, The China Syndrome, Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct,the criminally neglected Wonder Boys and Traffic are all great films. These roles are all very different. At the time these movies were made is there anyone else who could have played a Evil Wall Street robber baron, a soldier of fortune, a camera man, a police detective with a kinky side, an unfaithful husband, a stoned out college professor/writer and the United States Drug Czar? Maybe Harrison Ford in Romancing the Stone, but that is it. No two characters are the same. No two characters have the same motivation and when watching none of these movies do you feel you are just watching Michael Douglas.
Traffic is great for a lot of reasons. One, it showed that Stephen Soderberg could make a commercially successful film, that addressed serious topics in a realistic way. The acting is phenomenal. Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Dennis Quaid (very good here), Don Cheedle (someone please give him another great script and let him get the Oscar he deserves), Topher Grace (showed he could act with some heavy weights) and the Oscar winner Benecio Del Toro are all great.
This movie could very easily become a movie of the week saying drugs are bad and they hurt families. It did not. It makes you ask questions about what is actually going on with our families. Also, what is the price we pay for our ambition? Would Michael Douglas’s daughter gotten on drugs if he had put more time at home and less time advancing his carrer? Did Cather Zeta-Jones always suspect that her husband was a drug dealer and only got upset when the perfect life she had for herself was upended? How was success change Benecio Del Toro?
Soderberg weaves three essential stories together. The story of a Drug Czar who is struggling to help his daughter kick drugs. The story of a Drug Dealer’s wife who copes with her husbands arrest and her ethical changes and she evolves from naïve wife to cruel drug dealer. The story of the one honest Mexican cop who despretly wants peace in his time and to watch a simple game of baseball.