steven soderbergh's ambitious attempt to map out the different aspects of the illegal drug trade won four oscars, including best director and best supporting actor (benicio del toro). the film is set in san diego in the present day and a pair of undercover dea agents (don cheadle and luis guzm�n) are doing their best to bring drug baron carlos ayala (steven bauer) to trial. across the border in mexico, police officer javier rodriguez (benicio del toro) joins the national drug force, a special unit commanded by general salazar (tomas milian) and charged with bringing down the local obregon drug cartel. ayala's wife helena (catherine zeta jones) travels to tijuana to meet obregon representatives and strikes a deal intended to save her husband's life. rodriguez begins to suspect that the task force has undeclared connections to the supposedly defunct juarez cartel, the major rivals to the obregons. salazar meanwhile meets with us drug czar robert wakefield (michael douglas), a man whose dedication to his work blinds him to the fact that his own daughter is gradually sliding into drug addiction.