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Blu-ray Review: Traffic (2000) – The Criterion Collection

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The Criterion Collection has released Soderbergh’s masterpiece Traffic on Blu-ray. The critically acclaimed, Oscar-winning film weaves together three stories about different aspects of America’s War on Drugs.

Michael Douglas plays Ohio judge Robert Wakefield, who is appointed as the drug czar. He is ready to fight the war hard and win it, but he has no idea the size and scope of the battlefield, which is why he is surprised to discover his home is in occupied territory. In San Diego, Catherine Zeta-Jones lives a wealthy, comfortable lifestyle and is completely unaware that it is financed by her husband’s drug-smuggling until he is taken away from their home in handcuffs by the DEA. Having to deal with maxxed out credit cards, tax liens, and being shunned by her friends would be a tough ordeal for any woman, but when the life of her young child is threatened by men her husband owes $3 million to, she has to make hard choices she never considered before. In Mexico, Benicio Del Toro is a state policeman who along with his partner discovers that the work to take down the Obregon brothers’ drug cartel wasn’t to make the streets of Tijuana safer, but to eliminate competition. A review of the film can be found here.

The Blu-ray has been given a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer, supervised and approved by Soderbergh and displayed at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.  During the production, he used different color palettes and film stocks for the separate locations.  Mexico has a golden-brown hue and the increased film grain borders on being obtrusive.  Some Ohio interiors are tinted blue.  When colors are allowed to appear in their natural state, they are bright and vibrant.  Light sources are occasionally blown out, affecting the images.  Object detail and texture are sharp and well defined.

Soderbergh and supervising sound editor/rerecording mixer Larry Blake supervised and approved the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. However, don’t let the designation fool you. The dialogue and effects were originally recorded in mono and are delivered through the center speaker. Though limited in space, the audio still offers a worthwhile listen, which is clean and augmented by the subwoofer punctuating the bottom end for effects such as gunfire. Composer Cliff Martinez’ score is heard in the surrounds.

Traffic (The Criterion Collection) is a great film and a very good upgrade. Though the audio and video may not be typical for high definition, they are as the director intended and look are good as they can be and the A/V appears free of transfer defects. The plethora of special features are ported over from the DVD and now available in 1080i.

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS