Watching Steven Soderbergh’s drug-epic masterpiece is like punching a clock. When you sit down and watch, you are in for the long run; for two and half hours, you cannot take your eyes off the screen. Dedicating your time to the film’s convoluted, unique story, is like fighting 10 rounds with a raging bull, it knocks you right out.
Picking a favorite scene from one of the best films of this century isn’t easy. In fact, it’s impossible without explaining a few others.
Of the three stories in the film, Benico Del Toro’s conscience-riddled police officer, Javier Rodriguez, is the most emotionally severe. Just watching Del Toro’s face, clenched and bent into confounding complexity is reason enough to earn him the Oscar he won for his performance.
It’s no surprise that the film’s most inspiring scene is carried out with him.
The DEA has set up a meeting with Del Toro to talk about his new boss, drug kingpin General Salazar. While Del Toro sits in the back of a car in a vacant parking garage, he panics, not feeling safe, not knowing where the two agents are taking him to “talk”. The officers plead with him, “Where do you want to go, Javier!?” We instantly cut to a swimming pool, Del Toro and the two cops are neck deep in water, kids splashing all around them.
When money is discussed in exchange for information Del Toro may have, Del Toro simply asks the men, “Do you like baseball?” Confused, they say nothing. He goes on to tell them that the baseball fields in his town need lights, so the kids can play at night, so it is safe. “This is what I am talking about, my friends,” he says as he gracefully swims away.
Scored by Brian Eno’s hauntingly passionate “An Ending (Ascent)”, the scene proves that simplicity can stretch higher than the furthest desires of the imagination. The credits start, but we stay on the game. The scene is, quite simply, one of the most inspiring and heartfelt sequences that I have seen captured in film. After devoting so much time, this is our big, emotional payoff. Kids playing safely, under the warm glow of the lights.