A man trying to save his daughter discovers hell and more...
This movie is part of a series of movies (Babel, Man on fire comes to mind) which portray the very difficult Mexican social and economic situation next to the American border and how delicate the balance between the two countries is. While North Americans in general have a complete ignorance of the culture and origins of Mexico, they still see them as a source of trouble for their fatherland. As I speak, more restrictive immigration laws are being enforced for Mexicans and South Americans in some states in the U.S. A part of the North American society believes drugs, mobs and social violence is directly related to Mexicans. Again, the turmoil in Mexico is in no small part caused by the necessities North Americans have to "sustain" their honest, well intentioned way of life.
This necessity is what moves a prosecutor (played convincingly by Dermot Mulroney) to go deep into cruel and dangerous Mexican territory (mainly Juarez) in search of an illegal lung donor and an illegal transplant in order to save his daughter's life. During the journey, he'll encounter a dark life of crime and violence unknown to many Americans except when they have to resort to Mexicans for the dirty jobs they won't do themselves or for their convenience. The movie builds tension quite appropriately as we see a desperate father willing to risk his life in search of a mysterious doctor who is in charge of such operations. In his way, he'll see children gangs, prostitution, corrupt policemen and all the colors of human misery when poverty reigns. But he will also discover kindness, decency and the innocence of children (even those carrying automatic guns). In the eyes of the character everyone is corrupt and dishonest and this concept (although it may offend Mexicans or Latin Americans) is exactly what the script aims to do. It tries to show us how ignorant rich societies are of the way poor ones live and that not everyone who lives humbly is a criminal as the main character will find out. He'll also find out that the most despicable characters in the movie are not even Mexicans. (Surprise, surprise they are fellow North Americans). This is a journey of awakening for someone who has to go down to hell because he needs to.
In any case, the characters are believable. The wife (played by Diane Kruger) is a strong and determining character. Chief of police Aguilar (played by an impeccable Jordi Moya) is everything you'd expect from a degenerated police officer and Sam Shepard is also convincing. The music also deserves special mentioning although Newton Howard is basically copying Santaolalla's concept as heard in Brokeback Mountain or Babel. The in crescendo and the very emotional ending add to a movie which is decent and leaves a very important message mostly Mexicans and South Americans as I understand. Rich societies play an important part in the state of poverty (and its consequences) which is undermining poor societies and they have the moral power to revert this situation. That is, if they really wanted to.
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