Home Page  
 
 

SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • English DTS-HD 2.0 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Three commentary tracks: director Steven Soderbergh and writer Stephen Gaghan; producers Laura Bickford, Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, and consultants Tim Golden and Craig Chretien; composer Cliff Martinez (with two music cues not included in the film)
  • 25 deleted scenes featuring commentary from director Steven Soderbergh and writer Stephen Gaghan
  • Film processing demonstration: Achieving the look of the Mexico sequences
  • Editing demonstration with commentary from editor Stephen Mirrione
  • Dialogue editing demonstration
  • Additional footage featuring multiple angles from the scenes of the El Paso Intelligence Center, and the cocktail party where U.S. Senators, major politicians, lobbyists, and others state their views on the drug war
  • Theatrical and television trailers
  • U.S. Customs trading cards of the K-9 squad used in the detection of narcotics and illegal substances

Traffic

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Jacob Vargas, Tomas Milian, Michael Douglas, Luiz Guzman, Don Cheadle, Miguel Ferrer, Topher Grace, Erika Christensen, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Albert Finney, D.W. Moffett, James Brolin, Steven Bauer, Amy Irving, Dennis Quaid, Peter Riegert, Benjamin Bratt, Salma Hayek
2000 | 147 Minutes | Licensor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #151
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: January 17, 2012
Review Date: January 1, 2012

Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca

Share:

SYNOPSIS

Traffic examines the question of drugs as politics, business, and lifestyle. With an innovative, color-coded cinematic treatment distinguishing his interwoven stories, Steven Soderbergh (Ocean's Eleven, Che) embroils viewers in the lives of a newly appointed drug czar and his family, a West Coast kingpin's wife, a key informant, and police officers on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. The film, delivering a complex and nuanced take on this issue of such great international importance without sacrificing any energy or suspense, is a contemporary classic, and the winner of four Oscars, for best director, best screenplay, best editing, and best supporting actor for Benicio del Toro (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas).

Forum members rate this film 8.3/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Criterion’s 2-disc DVD special edition of Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic gets an upgrade to Blu-ray, presenting the film in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on a dual-layer disc in a 1080p/24hz high-definition transfer.

It looks like Criterion is working from a different master than what they used for the DVD and this one has quite a few differences in comparison. First the aspect ratio is different, the DVD presenting the film in its “original aspect ratio” of 1.85:1 where this one has been opened up a bit to, what the notes now say, Soderbergh’s “preferred aspect ratio.” The colours look quite a bit warmer here, best shown in the blue tinted sequences, and the colours do tend to look more natural in the Zete-Jones/Cheadle/Guzman sequences. The Mexico sequences, which have a more blown out look, look even more blown out here. The differences are fairly striking in places but since this presentation is said to have been supervised and approved by Soderbergh I’m going to go with this presentation being more accurate (the DVD, which looked to be based more on USA Film’s previous DVD edition, doesn’t actually state this.)

The transfer here is also far sharper with more distinct details present. Stones, pebbles, weeds, and other aspects of the desert landscapes that appear in the film come through crystal clear, as do the fine hairs and pores that can appear on the various actors faces on close-ups. The film grain, which can get heavy in places, looks natural and clean for the most part but there are some moments where it can look a little pixelated and blocky in areas of the screen. The transfer also presented moiré effects in a couple of places where there were tight lines or complicated patterns, but this isn’t a constant nuisance and is more of an exception than the rule. Minor halos also pop up here and there but this could be an issue with how the film was shot and processed and not something to do with the digital transfer itself.

I unfortunately can’t say how it compares to the Universal Blu-ray released not too long ago (though I can say it’s a vast improvement over the HD-DVD, which may have come from an outdated high-def DVD transfer.) Still I was very pleased with the transfer. Much sharper and far more filmic than Criterion’s DVD edition.

(I should also point out that, similar to Criterion’s DVD edition, the English subtitles for the Spanish speaking scenes are burned in and cannot be shut off. This is how director Steven Soderbergh wanted them presented.)

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

AUDIO

Similar to their DVD Criterion presents two audio tracks, a 2.0 track mixed specifically for home video, and then a 5.1 surround track that I would guess represents the theatrical mix, though this time they’re both presented as lossless DTS-HD MA tracks.

At the heart they both sound similar to me, other than the 5.1’s bass coming off sharper and cleaner. Both are mixed pretty similarly, though. Traffic has an interesting mix as it doesn’t make full use of the surrounds, even during the more action oriented sequences. Everything pretty much remains centralized to the front speakers with Cliff Martinez’s score being the only thing I found to move noticeably to the rears. The sound quality is exceptional, though, with some of the more subtle sounds of Martinez’s score coming through.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Most of the supplements from Criterion’s fairly packed DVD edition look to have made it over here, starting with three audio commentaries. The first one features director Steven Soderbergh and writer Stephen Gaghan. I'm guessing this one wasn't recorded exclusively for Criterion since the notes for the track don’t state this (though Criterion is mentioned in a couple of the tracks here.) Soderbergh talks about inspirations and a lot about his filming technique and the process of achieving the look of the film, and he also shares some horror stories. Gaghan talks about writing the script and how it was a project he wanted to do for a long time, and how it affected him. It’s a good track and both keep it going, and I like how Soderbergh at times criticizes his own film on occasion, pointing out sequences he’s not too pleased with.

The second commentary features the producers Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz and Laura Bickford as well as consultants Tim Golden and Craig Chretien. The producers really only touch on the surfaces of things, never really delving into anything except on a superficial level. Thankfully the consultants offer more, talking about the war on drugs, and what is real and what is questionable about the film, sort of similar to the consultants found on the commentary for Criterion’s Armageddon DVD. It’s a good track, though I actually wish the producers were left out of it and the consultants had the track to themselves.

The third track is a rather cool one. This combo audio commentary/isolated score track features Cliff Martinez. I’m not usually big on score-only tracks, but this one is unique. In essence it is a score-only track, with dialogue and sound effects removed, but Martinez will pop up talking about the score, and even his career in general. This section also presents an alternate music cue for the end of the film. I appreciated the presentation of this one and anyone fascinated by the film’s score should give it a listen.

The remaining supplements are found under the “Supplements” section. Though they are presented in high-def they look to simply be upscaled versions of the standard-def supplements on the DVD.

There are 24 deleted scenes with a gag scene also included, lasting about 26 minutes. These are interesting on their own, and there are a few I question about being removed, but for the most part their absence doesn't hurt the film. And the gag scene, lasting about 30 seconds, is quite funny, involving Catherine Zeta-Jones and a star-struck border guard.

There are many featurettes and multiple angle segments that show you the processes that went into putting together Traffic’s distinct sound and look under a sub-section called Demonstrations. There are 3 sections, one for processing the Mexico sequences, one for film editing and one for dialogue editing, each with their own set of instructions and text notes.

Film Processing shows how the film for the Mexico sequences was exposed and altered over and over again until they got the desired effect, going through 5 steps. A commentary is also provided to explain what was done on each step. While mostly a lot of jargon it's definitely fascinating and informative just how much work went into making the film look so dirty.

Editing shows how 4 scenes were edited together, including Overdose, Caroline is Caught, Javier Meets the DEA, and Monte Visits the Ayalas. This is presented as a multiple angle feature (where you can use the angle button on your remote to switch between views) and is accompanied by an optional commentary (you can also listen to the scene itself.) Each scene has multiple chapters, each one presenting a different layer of the scene, or combination of layers, showing the cuts performed. The first angle shows the scene on the editing suite with a timeline so you can see the layers and how they relate. The second angle shows the scene without the interface. It’s an intriguing and rather entertaining crash course on film editing.

Dialogue editing concentrates, obviously, on editing the dialogue for the film, and I have to admit I never realized how intense a process it really was. Accompanied by a commentary you are shown how background noise (such as radio music or rustling clothes) is removed to just leave the dialogue. It's amazing how seamless it is. And sound editor Larry Blake even admits to you how he had to redub a scene, without Soderbergh even knowing (Soderbergh apparently hates redubbing.) Text notes are also provided explaining dialogue editing along with a note from Blake. The video in this section runs about 13-minutes.

There's also another section containing four additional scenes, each with their own set of notes explaining the sequence and setting. These are presented in multiple angles and are in their raw form. Basically each angle is a different camera catching the sequence. Footage from the “El Paso center” sequence isn't presented with a multiple angle, but comes with a commentary and is actually footage of one of the storage warehouses for drugs seized at the border (and there is a lot there). A section called “Kids on the Street” presents three different takes of Erika Christensen and Topher Grace walking down the street. Two of the takes have alternate angles. The other sequences, which includes Douglas’s character mingling with various political figures, some of the footage having been used in the film, are also worth a look and thanks to the multiple angles it’s rather fun to play with: If you flip angles on the fly as you watch, you can edit your own sequences together. Counting all angles the entire section of additional scenes runs about 109-minutes (42-minutes if you only go through everything once.)

The oddest feature on here would have to be the K-9 Drug Enforcement Trading Cards, a photo gallery displaying the fronts and backs of trading cards representing the DEA’s K-9 unit. Unfortunately this feature has been skimmed down a bit. The original DVD contained about 100 of the cards, complete with photos and stats, but we only get about 14 of them here. We’re also missing (as far as I can see) an Easter Egg that was found on the DVD.

The disc also contains theatrical trailers, including a teaser, and five TV spots. An insert is also included with a short essay by film critic Manohla Dargis.

The trimming of the trading card section isn’t a big surprise, though I thought it was a fun and interesting feature on the original DVD. I’m also a little disappointed Criterion didn’t take the opportunity to revisit the film from a more analytical slant. Still, the supplements are thorough in covering the making of the film, right down to editing, even presenting some of the features in a fun interactive manner.

9/10

CLOSING

In terms of audio and video the Blu-ray offers a substantial improvement over the Criterion DVD, with a sharper more film-like image. And though technically everything didn’t make it over, the supplements are still fascinating to go through. Highly recommended.


View packaging for this Blu-ray

Share: 



Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca  




Join our Facebook Group (requires Facebook account)

This site is not affiliated with The Criterion Collection