Having just watched The Hi Lo Country (a modern day western with a sprawling story but focused on one thing), I was put in mind to watch Lone Star again. Lone Star is easily the superior film and is a rich weaving of many characters and stories all around one event. The one event is the uncovering of an old murder (possibly) and this central investigation holds the attention easily. Within this investigation and the lives that Buddy affected we are shown a lot of subplots some followed through, others just giving us enough background to understand the characters. All of these work very well and as a result you don't feel like the film is wandering when it moves away from the investigation by Sam. The subplots are so well translated that we are given a lot of back story to complex characters in a very short time.
For the script to be able to create so many characters that feel real and that have meaningful things going on is impressive. That it makes them all work is amazing and is due to Sayles both writing and editing. As director he is great as well, avoiding the washed out desert feel many `Mexico related' films have and instead goes for richer colours that reflect the rich mix of communities that are in his story.
The acting is faultless all round. No one actor stands out regardless of screen time simply because no one goes over the top and everyone realises they are playing part of a story even Cooper (realistically the nearest thing to a lead actor) plays it down rather than taking the film over. Morton is good even if his character is the least connected to the investigation, McConaughey is strong despite being little more than a cameo, likewise with Kristofferson. McDormand has a small role but is very impressive as Deeds' ex-wife. Elizabeth Peña, so often dumped with almost token Espanic roles is given a real good part and works with it well. I could list them all, however if any one person stands out it can only be Sayles himself he takes all the strands and brings them together. I watched a 90 minutes comedy earlier the same day that had dragged. At 130 minutes this simply flew it is that engrossing.
Overall some will find it too slow, too character driven, sadly some will just not sit through a good story if that's all there is to it (all!). I think this was reflected in poor box office at the time (comparatively poor anyway). But those who have seen it will generally love it if only more people would watch it! A final word on the film the ending is shocking and sensationalist on paper and a lesser man would have made a big deal out of it. Sayles simply ends the film softly and leaves us the audience to take what we will from it. Low key from start to finish I can't praise it enough.