The “Paradise Lost” in Escobar: Paradise Lost is paradise lost times two. Pablo Escobar was living in a mansion surrounded by family (which he adored), and with enough power to make or destroy anyone in the vicinity. When this story takes place, he is head of the Medellin Cartel in Colombia and incredibly wealthy; but eventually, he is forced to make a deal for his life and be incarcerated. So his paradise is lost to him (some religions might say for his sin of selling an addictive substance all over the world).
This story centers as much around young Nick (Hutcherson) meeting a native woman named Maria (Traisac) as it does Escobar. Maria is standoffish at first, complaining about northerners coming to Colombia and thinking it is paradise where they simply want to come and have fun without investing in the people or the culture. Nick and his brother Dylan (Corbet) are Canadians who have come to set up a shack on the beach to sell snacks and for Nick to give surfing lessons. Maria soon gives in to Nick’s charm, and they become a couple. It turns out she is Escobar’s niece, and before he knows it Nick is employed at their hacienda and welcomed like a member of the family. Pablo is thrilled and tells Nick he is like a son to him.
Well, one of the morals of this story is never to get involved with criminals, and Dylan strongly advises his younger brother not to get drawn in. But Nick is naïve and Pablo and the family so warm and welcoming, he doesn’t heed the advice. Little does he know that his own paradise may be snatched away.
Andrea Di Stefano, the director making his debut with this film, has been an actor for years, and clearly shows he has directorial talent. With co-writer Francesca Marciano, he has brought an absorbing, riveting drama to the screen, based at least partly on the real story of Pablo Escobar’s life. (I presume the part about Nick and Dylan was created for the film.) The film is greatly enhanced by Max Richter’s music. He is well known for the music in The Lunchbox, Wadjda, and the recent Testament of Youth.
The gifted Del Toro, with a long string of credits to his name, is in his element playing Escobar, showing his devotion to family, his status as hero of the common people (donating everything from soccer stadia to hospitals and clinics for the poor), contrasting with his cold ruthlessness when he orders a death. Josh Hutcherson of Hunger Games fame, gives one of his best performances, especially when his life is endangered and he is on the run. He and Claudia Traisac (Maria), who is optimally expressive, have good chemistry and look like a “real” couple together.
In my opinion the insertion of a romantic/thriller drama within a dramatized version of the Pablo Escobar story is remarkably successful.
A riveting dramatization within a brief look at the real Pablo Escobar’s life.
Grade: B By Donna R. Copeland