"Traffic" is a socially and politically grandstanding soap opera about the narcotics trade and the futility of the "war on drugs." It's a film about how that war is propagated by bureaucratic demagogues in the United States government, not because they think they can stem the flow of illegal substances but because they think saying they want to is a way to win elections.

OK. Point taken.

"Traffic" is also gritty and realistic feat of cinematic logistics, following no less than 15 major characters (and more than 50 speaking parts) through several complex, well-acted storylines about all sides of the drug trade -- from kingpins to cops to policy wonks to addicts. So my hat is off to the picture's ever-brilliant director, Steven Soderbergh ("Erin Brockovich"), who certainly does a fine juggling act, involving the audience in every story on a personal level.

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