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4.3 3
Director: Alastair Reid, Alastair Reid

Cast: Bill Paterson, Julia Ormond


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This four-hour, six-episode British miniseries, broadcast on Channel 4 in 1989 and in America on PBS's Masterpiece Theatre in 1990, provided the basis for Traffic, Steven Soderbergh's 2000 Oscar winner. Though Soderbergh and screenwriter Stephen Gaghan borrowed much of their plot and structure from the original, Traffik focuses on the European


This four-hour, six-episode British miniseries, broadcast on Channel 4 in 1989 and in America on PBS's Masterpiece Theatre in 1990, provided the basis for Traffic, Steven Soderbergh's 2000 Oscar winner. Though Soderbergh and screenwriter Stephen Gaghan borrowed much of their plot and structure from the original, Traffik focuses on the European drug trade instead of the American one and utilizes England, Germany, and Pakistan as its major settings. One of the three primary plot strands involves Jack Lithgow (Bill Paterson), a member of the British Parliament, who discovers that his daughter, Caroline (Julia Ormond), is a heroin addict despite the fact that he leads the country's Drug Abuse Committee. In a parallel story line, Helen Rosshalde (Lindsay Duncan), the British wife of German drug smuggler Karl Rosshalde (George Kukura), must take over her husband's illegal operations after an associate turns state's evidence and Karl goes on trial. In the third interwoven segment, and the one that diverges the farthest from the plot of the American film, Pakistani poppy farmer Fazel (Jamal Shah) ingratiates himself to drug overlord Tariq Butt (Talat Hussain) in order to support his family after the Pakistani government, at the insistence of Lithgow and other British officials, cracks down on the subsistence-level farmers who supply the heroin trade with its raw materials.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Patricia Kim O'Cone
Like director Steven Soderbergh's Traffic -- the Academy Award-winning feature film it inspired -- the 1989 British miniseries Traffik is a prism-like tale of agony, betrayal, and desperation that refracts the various stages in the illicit drug trade into a stunning panorama. This extraordinarily matter-of-fact view of the heroin-trafficking business spans two continents and three countries -- Pakistan, Germany, and England, with Jack Lithgow (Bill Paterson) at the heart of the dramatic ensemble. Lithgow, a British government minister sent to Pakistan to observe and recommend ways to combat that country's heroin problem, makes the acquaintance of Fazal (Jamal Shah), an impoverished Pakistani poppy farmer; and Karl (George Kukura), a prosperous German trafficker. On the other end of this heroin food chain is Lithgow's daughter Caroline, portrayed by Julia Ormond, who shows striking grit in her first major role. Also outstanding is Lindsay Duncan as Karl's glitzy wife, Helen, who basks in the prosperity resulting from her husband's criminality. The nearly five-and-a-half-hour miniseries offers a quiet critique of the loud, brash, power-driven trafficking business, provoking thought and emotion. As with director Soderbergh's adaptation, spellbound viewers of Traffik will likely find themselves feeling empathy for these richly drawn characters.
All Movie Guide - Brian J. Dillard
Though it's less stylish than Steven Soderbergh's big-screen version, the original miniseries Traffik displays more nuance and detail than the shorter, star-laden Oscar-winning remake. Writer Simon Moore's expansive script takes in more layers of the drug trade -- from the journalists who cover it and the dirt-poor farmers whose labor powers it to the street dealers who are far more prevalent than the preppie thrill-seekers of Soderbergh's version. Although the film is shot in a naturalistic palette, Traffik is not without a certain visual flair; the sequences set in Pakistan in particular introduce viewers forcefully to the mixture of beauty and squalor that serves as a backdrop to the genesis of narcotics production. Traffic does little to question the moral rightness of the American "war on drugs," but Traffik, by highlighting the economic and cultural realities of the developing world, paints a less cut-and-dry portrait of this international phenomenon. Bill Paterson's Jack Lithgow proves a less familiar, more human protagonist than Michael Douglas' grand standing drug czar, while Linda Bassett gets more to work with than Amy Irving does in the part of the government official's wife. All of the principals, in fact, acquit themselves admirably even when the writing reveals its television origins. It doesn't have the sparkle of a Hollywood showpiece, but in its place we get a script with a lot more gray areas, and a glimpse at the drug trade half a world away from our own backyard. In fact, the European and South Asian settings guarantee that Traffik will seem fresh even to rabid fans of the celebrated Traffic.
Entertainment Weekly
The original is better. It's a curmudgeonly statement -- cranky and almost cliché -- but in the case of the 1989 British miniseries that spawned Steven Soderbergh's Traffic, it happens to be true. Daniel Fierman

Product Details

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Original Release:
Acorn Media
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Special Features

Interview with writer Simon Moore and producer Brian Eastman; Extended U.K. broadcast version of episode 6; Photo gallery; Production notes; Cast filmographies

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Bill Paterson Jack Lithgow
Julia Ormond Caroline Lithgow
Linda Bassett Rachel
Lindsay Duncan Helen Rosshalde
Fritz Muller-Scherz Ulli
Jamal Shah Fazal
Talat Hussain Tariq Butt
George Kukura Karl Rosshalde

Technical Credits
Alastair Reid Director
Alastair Reid Director
Eastman Brian Producer
Brian Eastman Producer
Jon Gregory Editor
Andreas Grosch Production Manager
Martyn Hebert Production Designer
Andrew John McClelland Editor
Simon Moore Screenwriter
Tim Souster Score Composer
Neil Thomson Editor
Clive Tickner Cinematographer
Hans Zillman Production Designer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Traffik
1. The Bust [7:13]
2. A new Scheme [7:47]
3. Heroin Found [9:54]
4. Farmer's Struggle [7:31]
5. Connections [7:31]
6. Tip of the Iceberg [10:03]
1. Overseas Problem [8:17]
2. Looking for Work [9:02]
3. On Trial [8:31]
4. New Information [9:14]
5. Another Bust [7:17]
6. Domestic Problem [8:20]
1. Money Problems [6:58]
2. Trust [8:13]
3. Surveillance [9:05]
4. Never Enough [9:29]
5. Ransom [7:21]
6. Anything is Possible [9:41]
1. Reckless [6:47]
2. Doing Business [8:44]
3. Desperate [8:57]
4. Authority [8:35]
5. Government Policy [7:56]
6. The Witness [9:19]
Disc #2 -- Traffik
1. Back to Pakistan [9:34]
2. Another Deal? [7:18]
3. An Understanding [7:43]
4. Set Up [8:15]
5. Getting Help [10:15]
6. The Search [7:37]
1. Falling Apart [11:14]
2. Already Happening [8:50]
3. Lost [7:05]
4. Finding Caroline [7:32]
5. Cleaning Up [7:58]
6. The War [8:19]
1. Where's Caroline? [8:01]
2. It's Happening [12:04]
3. Dealing [7:19]
4. Information [4:51]
5. The Shipment [9:26]
6. Getting Out [5:27]
7. Cleaning Up [7:58]
8. The War [8:17]

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Traffik 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I haven't seen the DVD version yet, however, I did see the entire miniseries while it was being screened at The Museum of Television & Radio in NYC. If you liked Traffic, you will love Traffik. Very similar moments between the two films, however, the length of Traffik allows a better understanding of all aspects addressed in Traffic.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was excellent. The longer format and pacing makes this miniseries vastly superior to the Hollywood version. Julia Ormond was wonderful.