This jittery thriller follows three interwoven storylines: the efforts of Mexican narcotics cop Javier (Oscar-winner Del Toro) to bust up the Obregon cartel; the parallel work of San Diego DEA agents Ray Castro and Montel Gordon (Guzman and Cheadle), whose arrest of a drug-trafficking kingpin forces his pregnant wife Helena (Zeta-Jones) to deal with underworld associates; and the ironic ignorance of newly minted U.S. drug czar Robert Wakefield (Douglas), a man strikingly unaware that his privileged, high-school-age daughter Caroline (Christensen) has become a free-basing cokehead.
Scripted by Stephen Gaghan from an acclaimed BBC miniseries, Soderbergh's Oscar-winning "Traffic" is a hard-hitting, superbly stylized exposé of the war on drugs. Visually slick and masterfully directed, the film works beautifully as an ensemble drama of interconnected vignettes. It also serves as a harsh wake-up call to parents, educators, and clueless officials, highlighting the insidious ways illegal narcotics infiltrate the culture, and the mostly ineffective means we have of rooting them out. "Traffic" is a disturbing, exhilarating reality check that'll keep you hooked.