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The movie traffic

The movie “Traffic” embodies an honest and socially balanced perspective on the “War on Drugs” as waged by the United States Government. Though it is a film which addresses profound sociological and legal issues, the film’s director Steven Soderbergh chose to develop the movie’s themes of personal entanglement and alienation on an intimate level, fusing three separate plots, which span class and cultural specifics, and document the impact of the drug trade (and use) by recognizable, mostly sympathetic characters.

That film depicts drug use at a deeply personal level, chronicling the desolation and disillusionment that pervades all levels of the illegal drug trade from law enforcement to the “street level” user. The film’s main character, Bob Wakefield is America’s drug-czar, but he soon discovers that his 16-year-old daughter, formally an “A” student, has begun to experiment with heavy drugs. This plot-thread suggests that even the most privileged and protected members of society can fall victim to the lure of illegal drugs.

The plot thread also demonstrates, explicitly, the facets of racism and classicism that do play a part in the drug-trade. Wakefield’s daughter plummets from her high-society life to becoming a prostitute in the ghetto to gain drugs. A similar inference is made in the pot thread which involves the arrest of trafficker Eduardo Ruiz who turns state evidence to cause the downfall of Carlos Ayala a drug baron who lives in the affluent suburbs with his pregnant wife, Helena.

After her husband is arrested, Helena, rather than leaving her husband to the vengeance of her husband’s erstwhile business associates, opts to take over the drug business herself, eventually uncovering a secret chemical formula which will allow the undetected import of cocaine across the Mexican border into the US. This sub-plot engenders audience sympathy for Helena and her husband even though they are involved in an illegal business, the ravages of which are demonstrated clearly by the sub-plot

Traffic Page -2- involving Wakefield’s daughter and friends. The audience sympathy is generated by the fact and feeling that affluence is worthy at any cost; that social standing eclipses the morality of one’s business or occupation. In this way, greed is shown to be an endemic part of the supply side of the drug trade, just as alienation and ambivalence are shown to be causes of drug abuse on the user-side.

The third plot-thread reveals the savageness and bleakness of the drug trade in Mexico, where a pair of honest police officers in Tijuana are pitted against a corrupt system which reaches all the way to a Mexican General Arturo Salazar, who is both a drug-exporter and Mexico’s drug-czar, a counterpoint to Wakefield in the U. S. The portrayal of Salazar casts the biggest shadow of doubt in “Traffic” regarding the efficacy of America’s War on Drugs. If both “drug czars” are hopelessly entangled in the drug-trade at personal and economic levels, what hope is there for securing an effective anti-trafficking system or policy?

“Traffic” offers a penetrating, balanced, and personal viewpoint of the U. S. “War on Drugs. ” The movie convincingly suggests that the term “war” is misleading; that the proper perspective would be “A Drug War on America” and this war, according to the movie’s excellently presented themes, is being lost. The casualties are: anyone and everyone who is involved with the illegal drug-trade and at any level, from dealer to user. The movie refrains from offering solutions to the drug problem or preaching in any way about moral or political strategies.

However, watching the movie and thinking about it deeply, I believe that one way to deal with the problem of illegal drugs is honest communication and education about the reality of drug use and the destruction it causes to individuals and nations. Education of the sort which is offered in the movie “Traffic” itself, which refrains from glamorizing the drug-trade and illegal drug use; instead showing the very real consequences of involvement in this illegal business.

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