Rated 4.0

Director Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, The Limey) and screenwriter Stephen Gaghan (Rules of Engagement) have re-spun the British mini-series Traffik into a bracing look at North America’s war against drugs. This alternately sweeping and intimate dissection of the cancerous, multi-fingered narcotics trade snakes through the lives of an American drug czar and his freebasing teen daughter; two Tijuana cops; two undercover DEA agents; and a drug lord and his wife. Soderbergh uses a handheld camera to saturate the film, which he describes as Nashville meets The French Connection, with compelling, docudramatic urgency. An occasional stretch of credibility is offset by an excellent cast that includes Benicio Del Toro and Erika Christensen (my choice for Oscar nominations), Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Luis Guzman, Dennis Quaid, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Amy Irving.