If you want to get down

Cocaine has been present in different forms since almost forever. As chewable leaves. As a powerful anesthetic. As an ingredient of different beverages. And since the 70’s, as one of the most powerful and dangerous recreational drugs generating billions of dollars in revenues for its producers only in the US. How it became to be illegal when it used to be an active ingredient of the most popular beverage in the world?
Well… because it’s highly addictive and people dies ODing. By thousands.
And to people like Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria they don’t mean jack shit.

SHOW: Narcos
YEAR: 2015
PRODUCER: Gaumont International

You can’t get it back

Pablo Escobar is well known because he built a true empire thanks to the production and distribution of cocaine to US. The wit he and his partners in crime showed in order to find new ways to smuggle the drug to America was truly supernatural and gave a valuable lesson to new drug dealers. You have to outsmart everyone in order to be successful. And Pablo Escobar was a true genius at that game.
‘Narcos’ first season makes a good effort on showing that particular matter. Escobar (Brazilian Wagner Moura from ‘Elysium’ speaking in a struggling Spanish) is like a not so charming Ragnar Lothbrok. It’s a leader (of crime) that loves his family while he cheats on his loyal wife with an important woman. He is surrounded of faithful minions and not so faithful current allies. He keeps secrets and guards carefully his plans. So cautiously that even his closest friends are surprised eventually. As a spectator, one knows that at the end he is going to fall, but it’s so hard not to be on his side in the meantime. And the guy is evil on his enterprise.

Escobar was a regular smuggler back on the 70’s. Along with his cousin, Gustavo Gaviria (Juan Pablo Raba), he dealt TV’s and other household appliances. That was their thing and they were good. They had the local police on the pocket and they did fairly well. Meanwhile, in Chile, Pinochet’s bloody dictatorship almost ends with ‘Cucaracha’ (Luis Gnecco), a middle age cocaine producer. Barely surviving he decides to get the hell out of the Andean country and try new luck in Colombia where he meets Gustavo and tells him about Cocaine. The drug is being used a lot between the rich and famous and its value is sky-rocketing. Escobar and his cousin team up with Carlos Lehder (Juan Riedinger), a neonazi pilot that will smuggle the drug by plane into the biggest market of all: United States of America.

Back in Miami, DEA detective Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) loses his partner and part of his soul fighting this new drug that’s flooding the streets. Married with Connie (Joanna Christie), a nurse, they decide to settle on DEA’s office in Medellin and help stop this white nightmare. There, Steve teams up with Javier Peña (Pedro ‘Oberyn’ Pascal) and both start their war against Pablo Escobar. They will deal with internal bureaucracy, fears, bribery, dirty cops and their own fucked up lives.

She don’t lie

‘Narcos’ narrates a well known South-American story. Pablo Escobar, the ‘Robin Hood Paisa’ (native Robin Hood) was loved by millions and hated by the rest. He invented the ‘Plata o Plomo’ (money or bullets) philosophy that, over the course of time got bigger. Escobar was intellectual author of many attacks, being the biggest of them the Avianca plane explosion back in 1989 that left over 100 dead. He was responsible for the dead of hundreds of cops and rivals. Escobar didn’t stop.
The show delivers its vision about it. Escobar was a drug dealer, and probably a violent one. But his insatiable rampage began when he is kicked out of Congress after winning the election. Pablo Escobar wanted to fit in between the ones that always look him down. That was his true purpose. And when it failed, he lost his mind. That’s message we have to understand.
I personally don’t agree. We are taken by the hand to a conclusion that is trying to be romantic. This is a guy that was always a criminal and was always that violent. He didn’t change. His enemies did. The drug-lord was no longer fighting the local police. He was fighting the Colombian president itself alongside the DEA, the Special Forces, the CIA, the military… and on top of that, the ‘Cali Cartel’ and his refined leader Pacho Herrera (Alberto Ammann) who is working closely with the DEA (because no better way to take down a drug kingpin that making an alliance with another drug kingpin right?).
So, no, I don’t agree with the thesis that Pablo Escobar was a good guy before the Congress incident. I believe he was always the same man, but he become defied by greater challenges.

 

Conclusion

I enjoyed ‘Narcos’ first season. It’s directed with wonderful precision and cohesion throughout the whole season. The general cinematography by Mauricio Vidal it’s something the viewers will focus immediately. The contrast between the joyful and sunny scenery that Colombia provides and Escobar’s underworld. A strong palette used with expertise.
The soundtrack is for a review itself. The Latin rhythms and the beat of the ‘cumbias’ and boleros make for a great background music that reminisces of ‘siestas’ with distant (and not so much) shootings.
All the performances are great. Spanish speakers will note that Moura, Brazilian born, struggles to get the accent right but with the binge watching it’s something you’ll tend to forget. I didn’t really enjoy the voiceover. It sounded stiff and I didn’t understand the necessity. The plot is fully understandable. But perhaps, writers thought that the mostly Spanish dialogue would scare away American viewers so, putting Steve as the main character and making him the narrator would act as the solution for that. I really don’t know and it didn’t modified my opinion on ‘Narcos’ which I enjoyed a lot and binge-watched it in a couple of days.
I’m sure you will be hooked up too.

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