I know that many would argue that the definitive movie about the illegal drug trade is the 1971 blockbuster The French Connection. I however disagree. In my mind the ultimate one was the 1989 British made for TV mini series Traffik. This six one hour episode series was terrifying in its stark reality of a very dark and murky world.

In celebration of the twentieth anniversary of its creation Acorn media has now released Traffik on DVD. The two DVD boxed set contains all six of the original episodes. As a bonus there is also a second longer version of the final episode. This longer version has never been seen in the US. When it appeared on Masterpiece Theater some years ago they opted to use the shorter version to fit into the available time slot.

In fact so good is this series that yesterday I intended to only watch one episode as I had lots of work to do, well six hours later, it was time for bed! My wife had never seen Traffik, and she sat riveted to the TV for the entire performance.

Steven Soderbergh actually used Traffik as the inspiration for his Oscar winning 2000 movie Traffic. Soderbergh is a name that has been in the press lately, he is the gentleman that created the play “Tot Mom”, a rather distasteful work looking at the Caylee Anthony death and the case against mother Casey Anthony.

So what is Traffik all about?

Essentially it follows the lives of several people that are intertwined by the drug trade. Jack Lithgow is a minister in the British Government, and one of his responsibilities is fighting drug use and combating drug smuggling. This in many ways is a personal battle, his daughter is a heroin addict.

Karl Rosshalde is a German drug smuggler who’s luck runs out, Helen his wife takes over the family business.

Uli and Naseem are German detectives hot on the hunt for drug smugglers.

Fazal is an opium poppy grower in Pakistan, and Tariq Butt the drug lord that keeps the Rosshalde’s supplied with heroin.

As with many British TV mini series no expense was spared on production and it was filmed on location in England, Germany, and Pakistan.

What makes Traffik so outstanding is that the series is not created from a single viewpoint, each episode looks at a different facet, the poppy farmer, the addict, the smuggler, the chemist, the politician, and finally the Courier.

The plots and subplots are complex and thought provoking. For example the Pakistani poppy grower does not view himself as selling misery, he is merely trying to feed his family. The politicians actions while at first glance are well intentioned, but misplaced. It is the small fish that suffer, not the king pins. As it becomes increasingly difficult to move the heroin into Europe the smugglers get more and more creative. Human couriers, often coerced, must bring the drug into the country by ingesting little baggies of it. A dangerous and life threatening method.

If you are looking for six hours of great theater you must watch Traffik. You can order your copy by clicking on the cover art.

Simon Barrett

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