great, sprawling film about the impact of drugs and drug culture on society and individuals of all walks of life. stylistically it’s an ambitious, and successful, film. the yellow filters for the scenes in mexico, blue for those in washington, etc. all work well in spite of how they have become cliché in other films. the cast is well-rounded and uniformly excellent. the score is understated and quite complementary. the storytelling is well done considering its intertwined and confusing nature.
one minor, but welcome, gripe i have is that the ending is unrealistically pleasant and optimistic. i don’t know if i could have handled it if it were brutally realistic so i’m happy it ends the way it does, but we must remember what miguel ferrer’s character says: none of this matters one bit – the drugs are still going to get in and people are still going to get high. it’s the same noir-esque conclusion that the insurance adjuster comes to in siodmak’s 1946 version of the killers: you went through all this trouble to uncover the mysterious death of burt lancaster and all the difference you made in the world is that the policy holders will see their premiums decrease by one quarter of a cent, congratulations.