Traffik (1989) from Tuna

Traffik (1989) is a BBC mini-series from which the American movie, Traffic, was adapted. It is in six parts, and runs for 325 minutes. 
This structure is one of the things that made it better than last years Oscar nominee. There was too much material to cover for a single feature film. The series shows the heroin trade, from the poor Pakistani farmers who grow the poppies, to the processing labs, to the rich and powerful exporter, to the smugglers who get it into Germany, the rich German who imports then distributes it to all of Europe, the British cabinet minister trying to attack the production, and his daughter who is addicted.


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Some of the story elements survived in the American version, such as the drug Czar, his addict daughter (Julia Ormond!), the wealthy drug lord, and his wife who is left holding the bag. In this case, however, the wife, a former Olympic swimmer, takes over the business, salvages the family wealth, and sees to it that the witnesses against her husband disappear. Helen, played by Lindsay Duncan, is topless in a tanning machine in episode three, and has a lengthy full-frontal in episode five while being strip searched in an airport.

To create the Soderbergh movie from this mini-series, Pakistan was replaced by Mexico, Germany was replaced by San Diego, and the production of narcotics was dropped altogether.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • fullscreen, 325 minutes, 2 disks,

  • no meaningful features

The series told a complete story, and not in the traditional way. For instance, we learn that the Pakistani farmers grow it because they would need twice as much land, and irrigation that they do not have, to earn as much from other crops as they do from poppies. Further, opium is no more illegal than vodka in Pakistan. The mini-series goes into much more depth in the motivations of all of the players, and also has more of a final message than the US film. While Traffic mainly said that the "War on Drugs" was a farce that wasn't working, Traffik contends that you will never end the problem by attacking the production and distribution, because it is too profitable, and the poor farmers have no real alternatives. They say the only answer is to create a society where people don't need the escape of drugs, and that you have to stop the demand, or the supply will always be there. 

IMDB readers, at the moment, have it at 9/10. I am sure this will moderate over time, but it is very well done, and well worth watching. 

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 9.0 
My guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this show is a B.

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