Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Traffic Circles

When mapping out the connections between characters, Traffic demonstrates the absurdity of yet another extravagantly funded though tragically failing American war - the war on drugs. Soderberg's expertise has created a picture which, at first glance, appears apolitical, though is one of the most convincing and well-structured arguments against this program. In a time when the far right screams at liberals for belittling self-responsibility, perhaps they should adopt similar principles towards drug abuse. It is one of the few issues that should scale beyond political bounds and avoid partisan traps - throwing money at a problem rather than amending what's creating the problem; individual reliance rather than governmental dependence; demanding for politicians to stop lying and admit the truth - though, like most issues, the contradictions have become fixated as third rail partisan issues.

Though as Ebert says, "If the decriminalization of drugs were ever seriously considered in this country, the opponents would include not only high-minded public servants, but also the kingpins of the illegal drug industry."

Below are the maps connecting the characters and story lines of Traffic.

Picture One is self-explanatory. Unfortunately, the arrows aren't legible so I'll write it out (defeating the purpose of making the flow charts, but oh well). Starting from Government and going clockwise.

---Pays off--->
---Tips Off--->
---Testifies Against--->
---Works For--->
---Competes With--->
---Bought Off--->
---Who Works With--->

As Eduardo says to Don Cheadle and the other cops moments before getting food poisoning - "You're whole life is pointless...the worst part about you Monty is you realize the futility of what you're doing and you do it anyway...you only got to me because you were tipped off by the Warez Cartel who's trying to break into Tijuana....so remember you work for a drug dealer too." Thus, America's pumping of money towards informants only strengthens their operations and weakens their competition, doing nothing to cut down trafficking as a whole.

Picture Two sums up Michael Douglas's closing speech regarding family as the potential problem beyond cartels or inner-city dealers. Starting at 12:00 (Drug Cartels) and going clockwise.

---Sell to--->
---Sell to--->
---Sell to--->
---Some Who Are--->
---Who Work For--->
---Who Employes--->
---Who Pays off--->
---Who Provide--->
---To Destroy Other--->

Nowadays, movies like Crash, Crossing Over, Babel or various other "interconnected" stories glorify the technique rather than understanding its use. Soderberg used individual vignettes to argue a point. Not for superficial distraction from mediocre stories.