Being a Ridley Scott fan I wanted to see this film despite its poor reviews. Lots of times I disagree with the majority of opinions when it comes to films but not in this case.
Scott is a brilliant filmmaker who has significant ups and down with this one being one of his major downs. He certainly didn't want for a quality cast here--Fassbender, Pitt, Clooney, Bardem and Cruz are all at least adequate here. More did he lack for a quality writer with Cormac McCarthy on board for his first screenplay.
The film fails in a number of respects but none so much as Scott's inability to craft a film vs. a series of near incoherent dialogues. McCarthy might be a great writer and describer of scenes but his written speech is not meant to be cut and pasted to film. I think Scott got himself in trouble giving McCarthy too much respect (having stated in the past that he is a fan of the writer) and not creating his own work with the film. The characters are some of the shallowest I've viewed with the motivations of all barely covered with all blathering on and on with philosophical meanderings as if they were McCarthy's tongue themselves rather than actual individuals.
Then we have Cameron Diaz who I'd like to know how on earth she got into this film. Maybe she has her place in some comedy targeted at adolescents but not here. She is not pretty, smart or strong here--characteristics her role should have had. She represents one of the worst miscastings in some time.
The film is bad enough that it doesn't even transmit the darkness at the heart of the story which lies in the "butterfly effect" of The American drug trade. Mentioned briefly and expounded upon throughout the film (though poorly) is that from the smallest user to the biggest dealer to every lawyer--we are all complicit in the damage that swirls out from every transaction. You, experimenting with that single line of coke, you are the killer of children in Ciudad Juarez, you, the smoker of pot grown in California are the facilitator of South American snuff films. It's a correlation that has always rung true for me and one that only briefly got some play in the few months after 9/11, and it's a shame it's a message that gets such short shrift in this poor film.