Film Review: 'Escobar: Paradise Lost' - For the Love of Family
When Canadian surfer Nick and his brother Dylan travel to an idyllic Colombian beach in the 1980s, they are seeking a paradise where life is good and happiness is easy. Nick soon falls in love with Maria and is faced with the prospect of meeting her beloved uncle, Pablo Escobar. Throughout Colombia, Escobar is adored as the man who feeds the poor, builds clinics for those in need and whose generosity is renowned far and wide. However, as Nick is welcomed further into the family fold, he begins to uncover a gritty side to the family man. Directed by Andrea Di Stefano, Escobar: Paradise Lost is based around the real life of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, who famously made his fortune by trafficking cocaine.
Benicio Del Toro is a commanding presence as Escobar, finding a perfect balance between the tender love he feels for this family and the ruthlessness that enabled him to become the most powerful drug trafficker in the world at the time. At first, Escobar keeps his family life and his life as a drug kingpin separate, until his need to protect those he loves most ultimately causes the two worlds to merge and it comes time for him to surrender to the police.
Dreaming surfer Nick is a perfect role for Josh Hutcherson, who plays the part with an innocence that soon begins to fade as he discovers the truth behind Escobar’s fortune. Nick quickly becomes conflicted between his love for Maria, played strongly by Claudia Traisac in her big screen debut, and his discomfort with her family. He is clearly intimidated by Escobar, the latter of whom makes a show of welcoming him into the family, while maintaining a threatening undercurrent that a wrong move would prove fatal.
Nick also becomes torn between Maria and his brother Dylan (Brady Corbet), who warns him not to get involved with such a family. This focus on dilemmas makes the movie much more interesting to watch than blanket violence, ensuring that the characters we follow are given multiple dimensions and keeping our interest fixed upon their fates.
Overall, Escobar: Paradise Lost is a gripping film made all the more enticing by its closeness to real life characters and events. Tense music is mixed with spectacular scenic shots and a feeling that this movie will push the limits of what is expected in cinema today. Del Toro is his usual charismatic self, as he excels in a role packed with intimidation, intrigue and no small amount of tension. In this film, Escobar is a man who loves his family and will do everything in his power to ensure they are protected, which, when you are the wealthiest drug kingpin in the world, is an awful lot.