A brief portrait of the infamous trafficker in Escobar: Paradise Lost
by Alfonso Rivera
- The Pearls section closed with this co-production between Spain, France and Belgium, starring Benicio del Toro
This year’s Donostia debut went to North American Denzel Washington, who opened the Official Section of the Basque competition with his forgettable creation The Equalizer; and the Perlas section showing the best of film festivals, closed the festival with Escobar: Paradise Lost [+see also:
film profile], the cast of which includes Oscar-winning Caribbean actor Benicio del Toro. Written and directed by a newcomer, Italian actor Andrea di Stefano (seen in films like Before Night Falls, The Phantom of the Opera – by Argento- and Nine), uses the figure of the cruel drug-trafficker Pablo Escobar to create a suspense story starring the young Josh Hutcherson, actor from The Hunger Games saga, who caused more hysteria among the teenagers gathered in San Sebastian than the leading man himself Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, protagonist of A Second Chance [+see also:
film profile], screened a few days previously.
Thus, those who are expecting the biopic of a controversial and interesting figure will be disappointed. As will those who’re looking for an auteur film with a socio-political message. Because Escobar… is, above all, a suspense movie peppered with romance, beautiful scenery and a bit of action. In short, a totally commercial film and there’s only one explanation for why it’s included in a section like Perlas: to bring its actor Del Toro to the Basque country to pick up his Donostia Prize.
In fact Del Toro, with his usual conviction, plays the part of a Colombian Godfather: a big kid who plays with his children, sings at a party and films movies, who built an amazing theme park/zoo (a kind of Neverland where the car in which Bonnie and Clyde were ambushed sits alongside real elephants and papier-mâché dinosaurs) and who’s hailed as a rock star by the masses – who consider him a modern-day Robin Hood because he shares his wealth with them – when he hands himself over to the police. Di Stefano has preferred for us to watch the young Canadian surfer who plays Hutcherson (and we can only guess that, with his inclusion in the cast the producers are guaranteeing themselves a tidy sum at the box office, by appealing to young audiences), who falls in love with the boss’ niece whilst gradually being taken in by a web of seduction and manipulation… until he discovers the endless crime and shady deals.
As far as suspense and entertainment go, the movie works well; it’s fast-paced, well-crafted and has beautiful photography. However, as an in-depth study of a controversial character like Escobar it’s unsuccessful, since “the Boss” is almost a secondary character, portrayed as a savage, sanctimonious and temperamental ogre. One would have to take a look at the documentaries made about this mythical leader in order to know more about his character and better understand the popular fervour that he aroused, something that this film (sold internationally by Pathé International) screened in San Sebastian only marginally tackles.
(Translated from Spanish)