The story behind the recent arrest of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is as dramatic as anything else on Netflix right now. A drug lord who has escaped from prison hopes to inspire a Hollywood biopic, only to be captured because of a Rolling Stone interview with an A-lister actor. There is something undeniably Argo-esque about the whole scenario. It is definitely something to go on with, even though it isn’t as explosive as Narcos yet.
Narcos is Netflix’s top-rated series which seems to have been the blueprint of El Chapo’s road to the red carpet. Narrated from the point of view of Drug Enforcement Administration agent Steve Murphy, the Golden Globe-nominated series tells the story of the rise of Pablo Escobar in Colombia in the 1980s and the consequent American war on drugs. The show premiered as a Netflix original series in August 2015, and is now available for streaming on Netflix India as well.
Narcos is intense, informative and brutal. It will keep you hooked on to the story of Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, played by Wagner Moura. The Golden Globe nominee does a smash hit job of portraying a character complex, enthralling, and endearing all at the same time.
Escobar was responsible for tonnes of cocaine making its way through Colombia into the United States. His biggest strengths were the corrupt system and his confidence in the fact that there was a simple solution to every problem in his path — “Plata o plomo?” (Silver or lead, take the bribe or take the bullet). Eventually, Escobar wielded a power so unmatched that he held an entire government hostage to his demands.
The show outlines the rise and terror of the Medellin Cartel, Escobar’s short and unsatisfactory political stint, and the chaos unleashed in Colombia. Just like El Chapo, Escobar came from nothing and built an empire. He created jobs in the community even as he killed countless people. By the time he was done, Escobar had more money than he could count, stashing it in furniture and burying it in the ground.
The 10 episodes pack a fiercely committed cast that does a tremendous job at bringing alive a time gone by, complete in its intricacies, styles, colours and politics.
DEA agents Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) and Javier Pena (Pedro Pascal) are joined by those fighting the drug epidemic from within, including the honest President Cesar Gaviria and the resolute Colonel Horatio Carrillo, whose hatred for Escobar is almost contagious. The women are no mere supporting cast either. While the crime and the trade is run by these ruthless men, the women in the series subtly find ways to hold positions of strategic power to get what they want and keep what they have.
Shot mostly on location, Narcos is as much a cinematic masterpiece as it is an epic crime drama. The dialogue is bilingual, alternating between Spanish and English. (Since the actors aren’t all Colombian, many who can tell the difference have complained about the misplaced inflections and inaccurate twangs of the accents). The music takes on a character of its own as vintage salsa, cumbia and tracks and artists from the ’80s add volume to the authentic portrayal of Colombia of the decade.
Narcos is power-packed, addictive and worth the ten hours you’ll spend stuck to your screen. Watch it for Escobar, but watch it for El Chapo too.