Cartel Land (2015) – 3/5

While the issues presented in Cartel Land are tragic, serious, and very much real, the film seems to be staged and lacks the truthfulness often perceived by a documentary. The fact that I found myself wondering if I was watching a work of fiction instead of a documentary, made this film simply unconvincing.

Do not take me wrong. I do not need convincing, specially on this topic. I lived in the Juarez/El Paso area when the cartels were terrorizing countless cities in Mexico, including mine. I believe every single incident; sadly, that is not a work of fiction.

However, the movie goes on and on about the vigilantes that take the safety of their people into their own hands because the government doesn’t provide the right amount of safety. Vigilantes are just people though, not angels. From the very beginning I am able to sense the lack of objectivity as if the film was made to magnify the actions of two people, Dr. Jose Mireles and Tim “Nailer” Foley. Only a few minutes at the very end are dedicated to showing the imperfections of Dr. Jose Mireles. Not much is said about the other side of Time Foley.

Director Matthew Heineman might have brought the seriousness of the issue to light, but it’s disheartening that it was shown with such bias. It is as if the real issue was forgotten as he developed a relationship with his protagonists. While the documentary had all the right amount of evidence and valuable footage, it was lost in a series of what seemed to be staged scenes. Overall, the one film that seem to have the potential to bring out the truth about a much debated topic, appeared in the big screens as a collection of horrifying scenes without the proper amount of back up.

Learn more about the movie here: Rotten Tomatoes


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