Narcos on Netflix, with Wagner Moura

Wagner Moura as Pablo Escobar in the Netflix Original Series NARCOS. Photo credit: Daniel Daza/Netflix

Wagner Moura as Pablo Escobar in the Netflix’s Narcos

Ambitious new series about the rise of notorious ‘narco-terrorist’ Pablo Escobar

Netflix, starts Friday, 28 August

TRUTH IS NOT only stranger than fiction but more terrifying. Pablo Escobar, subject of Netflix’s new 10-part biopic, was a gang boss who made Tony Soprano and Don Corleone look like shoplifters.

Luis Guzmán stars in NARCOS.

Big shot – actor Luis Guzmán

The infamous Colombian drug lord is reputed to have been the richest criminal in history, worth an estimated $3bn by the early 1990s. At the height of his power, his Medellin drug cartel was shipping 15 tons of cocaine into the US every day and he was thought to be controlling three-quarters of the American coke trade.
He murdered with impunity, blew up a passenger plane killing 110 people (presidential candidate Cesar Gaviria Trujillo was his target, though he escaped death), bombed the capital Bogota, tortured and murdered lawyers, journalists and government ministers, corrupted or killed anyone in authority. Colombia became the world’s murder capital , with 25,100 violent deaths in 1991, a total boosted by the killing of 600 police officers by Escobar’s cop-bonus incentivised hitmen.

‘Robin Hood of Medellin’

How to encapsulate this grotesque era in a TV drama? Series co-creator Eric Newman is adamant it will not celebrate the man some incongruously called the ‘Robin Hood of Medellin’.

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Stephanie Sigman as Valeria

Former drugs enforcement agent Steve Murphy worked as a consultant on Narcos with his DEA partner Javier Peña. He says he and his colleagues saw Escobar as the ‘first narco-terrorist’. He views the Netflix series as an opportunity to spell out the dangers of rampant transnational organised crime.
Newman and producer Jose Padilha worked with Murphy and Peña on the drama’s authenticity. The cast is largely from Latin America and the dialogue is 60 percent in English, 40 percent Spanish with subtitles. Escobar is played by Brazilian star Wagner Moura, who appeared in Elysium with Matt Damon.

‘US drugs policy hasn’t worked’

Padilha says the story is also a critique of the ‘war on drugs’: ‘The drug policy that we have in the US hasn’t worked in the last 30 years. The Nancy Reagan “Just Say No” approach doesn’t work. It shouldn’t be treated as a drug war, rather a health problem.’

(L to R) PEDRO PASCAL and BOYD HOLBROOK star in NARCO. NARCOS S01E04 "The Palace in Flames"

Pedro Pascal and Boyd Holbook

The story basically counterpoints the rise of Escobar with the efforts of DEA officers Steve Murphy, played by Boyd Holbrook – whose credits include Gone Girl and Behind the Candleabra – and Javier Peña, American-Chilean actor Pedro Pascal, to combat his operation.
As the real Javier Peña says, ‘It’s really a story about how one man could challenge his own country and actually win until a group of dedicated Colombian and US police officers disregarded their own safety to try and bring the cartel down. But it’s more than that – Escobar’s story remains interesting because of what we’re seeing in Mexico right now.’
Check out…
Narcos on Netflix

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