An under-mentioned thriller that tells an interesting story and easily lures your complete attention throughout.
A young Canadian surfer moves with his brother to Colombia and falls in love with the woman of his dreams, who just so happens to be the niece of the infamous Pablo Escobar, something that will change his life forever.
This one made the rounds on the film festival circuit for much of the latter part of 2014 before getting a more widespread US release in the summer of 2015. The plot was interesting and the casting of Benicio Del Toro was information enough to make it worth a watch in my opinion.
Much to my pleasure it was a surprisingly enjoyable film that built a modest love-story for an added tinge of romance in a film filled with otherwise tense and dramatic moments. This film ended up being very good when it could have even been better given the relationship between the two young lovers had been built a little stronger. It was a little on the convenient side and I had trouble fully buying into their strong love connection. Regardless, the ‘love at first sight’ theory that was put in play was strong enough to base the course of the story on and create a connection with the viewer.
With the name ‘Escobar’ in the title many would assume this film was centered around him but that was not the case. The love between the two main characters was the focal point and for that aspect I would have liked a little more detail put into building the strong love between the characters of Nick (Josh Hutcherson) and Maria (Claudia Traisac). This girl was enough for this young man, to for the most part, abandon his brother and the entire reason they were down in Colombia, and it simply was not developed enough in the story to really put the viewer behind the notion.
While the role of Pablo Escobar was not the focal point of the story he was clearly not just a plot device either. It also must be said that the performance of Benicio Del Toro by far exceeded the material he was given, and the impact he put on the film was from his acting skill, and not the writing he was working with. Del Toro’s portrayal of Escobar was excellent and while this may have been an entertaining film, I still feel like his performance will go under-mentioned due to the lack of publicity this movie received. The story-line was intriguing on its own but the performance of Del Toro alone is enough to make this film recommendable as he displays some excellent character acting.
Josh Hutcherson really surprised me in this one as well. I have only seen the first “Hunger Games” and it was a good one but Hutcherson for some reason really never stuck out to me. He really shined in this role and the emotion he delivered in the performance, much to my surprise, had me up in my seat. I was buying what he was selling and he gave the story a strong lead even with Del Toro in the cast with him. The suspense and tension this film built came in part part because of Hutcherson selling the role and never did he over-act or force moments. After watching him in this one it is easy to see he will become a strong force in Hollywood’s near future.
This movie was also very well shot. The locations and settings for many of the set-pieces were beautiful and did a great job of capturing the feel and tone of the region. They were able to convey the countries beauty as well as its seedy side and detailed how both worlds overlap. During some of the more suspenseful moments the score and camerawork used great angles to build the most tension. While Hutcherson’s character (for the sake of spoilers) finds himself in some rather suspenseful scenarios you feel like you are there with him, something that added to the ability to pour my attention into the story-line.
This still was a very entertaining film but I keep thinking back to the fact that it could have went from very good, to outstanding, had some of the elements of the script been more developed in the writing phase. It was not a deal breaker by any means just felt like some lost potential. The way the country felt about Pablo Escobar was brushed upon, as was the dirty methods of operation his growing cartel went about, and it unfortunately only brushed upon the foundation of the relationship the plot centered around. With these elements lacking some depth the result was still riveting at times and had they been more fleshed out, the ride this film takes you on could have been considered among the greats in the genre.
Overall though, “Escobar: Paradise Lost” was a pleasant surprise and given its lack of publicity it could be considered a hidden gem. For a night with a thrilling adventure, with a range of emotional impact, a good amount of unpredictability, and a fast moving pace, this one is highly recommendable. If you are a fan of either Benicio Del Toro or Josh Hutcherson then this film is easily a must-see as both deliver some quality performances.
– Starring –
Benicio Del Toro, Josh Hutcherson, Claudia Traisac, Brady Corbet, Carlos Bardem
– Directed By –
Andrea Di Stefano
Time: 120 min
MPAA Rating: R (For violence including grisly images)