Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writers: Stephen Gaghan
Actors: Benicio Del Toro, Jacob Vargas, Michael Douglas, Luis Guzmán, Don Cheadle, Miguel Ferrer, Topher Grace, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Albert Finney, James Brolin, Dennis Quaid, Salma Hayek
Soderbergh is so fucking methodical. Starting around the turn of the last century, probably with Erin Brockovich, Soderbergh has embarked on a long series of genre-experiments, like Picasso learning Rembrandt and Da Vinci. He doesn’t always produce an exceptional example of whatever genre he’s studying, but he’s clearly absorbed the lessons. And every few films he makes an out-and-out narrative experiment like The Girlfriend Experience, Bubble, or Full Frontal.
The greatest benefit (for film fans) of all this creative meandering comes in his movies like Traffic. What genre is this? Ultra-real? True-est grit? Suffice to say, the cast is incredible, and Soderbergh puts them through the paces in an unbroken stream of edgy set-ups in an effort to show as many sides of the “drug war’ as possible. It’s a tribute to his seriousness about the project that Soderbergh managed to get real senators commenting on film. It’s evidence of his dedication to it, that he actually took his film crew into the most dangerous, desolate part of downtown Cincinnati. And it’s a mark of his matchless technique that the movie, 10 years later, remains emotionally affecting in so many ways. The politics are vexing, the personal stories (especially that of Erika Christensen’s waning Caroline) are dispiriting. It’s this pairing of incredible technique, unbounded creativity, compassionate storytelling, and missionary devotion that make this perhaps the best movie of the past 10 years, and definitely one of the best films ever made.