Benicio Del Toro won an Oscar from his first nomination for portraying Javier Rodriguez in Traffic.
Benicio Del Toro is the lead of his section of the film which is the Mexico section. I do not mind his supporting placement though because his part still is only in a total of one third of the film, and the film overall is an ensemble piece. Del Toro portrays Javier Rodriguez who seems be like the only honest person in Mexico. He is a Mexican police officer who tries his best to find someone good to turn to in a place where almost everyone is corrupt.
Del Toro's performance is an intensely quiet and subtle performance. This is really required of Javier who must remain quiet in most people eyes to make it so the corrupt think he is corrupt as well. Javier is in a position where he really cannot show emotion to very many people. Del Toro therefore stays very much restrained throughout his performance. Del Toro never underacts though and he simply employs a very realistic approach as Javier.
Del Toro manages to create a good amount of empathy, without seemingly even trying to get it through this simple yet effective performance. Del Toro performance never really seems to have any visible acting most of the time since, Javier is putting on the facade of indifference most of the time. Del Toro though gives slight indications of how Javier really feels throughout his performance very subtly but incredibly well handled.
Javier opens up more fully in a few scenes such as with his Partner's wife, and his scene after the death of his friend. Del Toro is very good in these scenes displaying Javier's emotions quite well although still showing him to be a restrained man overall. I think in particular his scene of driving after the death of his friend is perfectly handled by Del Toro as he slowly emotionally deteriorates although he stops before completely breaking down which goes well in line with Javier as a character. Del Toro overall gives a strong effective performance of incredible realistic subtlety.