Film Review of the TIFF Premiere of “Escobar: Paradise Lost”

Last night I went to go see the TIFF gala premiere of Andrea Di Stefano’s film Escobar: Paradise Lost, starring Benicio Del Toro as Pablo Escobar, Josh Hutcherson as Nick and Claudia Traisac as Maria. I can safely say this was the highlight of the Toronto International Film Festival for me.

As Queen’s University Film Grad, any chance I get to unleash my inner movie nerd is welcomed and so every year I carefully look at the descriptions of each film on the TIFF website and decide on the ones that really grab me. Immediately upon reading the bio for Stefano’s film, I was sold. Drug lords, surfing, romance, Canadians seeking a beach life in the sun these are a few of my favourite things. Done deal. Only problem: I was supposed to be leaving on a trip to Connecticut for a family reunion yesterday evening. Luckily I convinced my parents to postpone the drive until the next morning. This was a serious accomplishment, considering my dad is a litigator and they are basically paid to be stubborn. Next problem: tickets are “off sale.” I devise a plan whereby my boyfriend (who we realized is a much taller Josh Hutcherson lookalike) would stand in line for Rush tickets, until I could get down there (commuter traffic was beyond horrific). Upon my arrival my boyfriend informs me that he was too fed up with the long line, so he left it. I’m devastated. Then with a sly smile he says, “I got us two tickets to it instead, regular price.” I squeal in excitement and exclaim, “how?!?!” In his best Jay-Z falsetto voice he goes “cuz I’m a hustla baby.” This is why I love him. Perfecto. And totally worth the 10 minute sprint in heels into Chipotle to get him the burrito he requested (people on the street must’ve thought that boogie blonde really fiends dat guac eh).

The film, also worth it, like the L’Oreal slogan in the intensely glossy and beautifully shot previews, I might add. It was a drama and romance, yet also a thriller and comedy, and arguably also a tragedy. As my old film prof used to say, “all good dramas must have comedy and all good comedies must have drama.” It did this so seamlessly that the audience found themselves bursting into laughter, followed by bursting with smiles watching an adorable love story, then holding their breath during fight scenes. The audience also found themselves mimicking the feelings of the main character Nick, an innocent Canadian (as the director described him in his introduction of the film), who goes through a whirlwind of emotions throughout the film. Josh Hutcherson really shows off his acting chops exceptionally well in the performance I believe will set him apart from the Hunger Games series and rank him among the more serious actors in young Hollywood. The film follows a non-chronological timeline that begins right before the major turn in the story from romance to heart-wrenching thriller and tragedy. As previously mentioned, the audience is taken on a Colombian adventure, being put directly in Nick’s (Hutcherson) shoes, or lack thereof, as a happy-go-lucky surfer dude, who goes from quiet and reserved to fearless hero in a country so desperately seeking a hero. Speaking of this “national hero,” we come to Pablo Escobar. Benicio Del Toro takes on a very interesting role, playing the drug lord/modern day Robin Hood. The audience feels Nick’s conflicted thoughts simultaneously as they appear on the screen, as Nick flip flops between being terrified of this sociopathic, ruthless, and ultimately backstabbing killer and feeling connected to the funny, likeable, surprisingly normal and joyous man behind the fame. Ultimately, Escobar always finds a way to win the game. Unfortunately for the other characters there can only be one winner.

One of the most formidable aspects of the film was it’s ability to portray the complex and futile political situation during the Escobar Era in Colombia, and arguably still today. We have a “War on Drugs” and yet it is undeniable that politics rely more so on economic power structures than justice and morals. Pablo Escobar is a hero, yet also a villain in a world where those lines are becoming increasingly more blurred. In the beginning of the film, Maria (Traisac) pleads to Nick (Hutcherson) that Pablo (Del Toro) is actually a kind, normal, almost respectable man despite his career choice in the taboo business of cocaine smuggling, which she innocently defends as just the cash crop that has been around so long in Colombian history. The film conveys the idea that we live in a hopeless world filled with people looking for hope in a single figure, whether he be political or religious, who more often fails them. Escobar is humanized enough times that the audience leaves the film questioning why we always jump to hating the “playas,” when we should be hating the “game.”

You can view the trailer here.

photo 3.PNGIMG_5078

Side Note: Since I cannot talk about the film without discussing its fashion, though fashion was by no means a focus, other than the hilarity of some of the insanely gaudy outfits sported by Escobar’s family contrasted with his dishevelled appearance, I LOVED Nick’s cute short sleeve tribal print button downs!  Absolutely adore this spanish inspired look on men!


And for my own fashion of the night: here is a groovy pic of me looking very uncomfortable freezing in the cold outside post film fashion: White blazer and black collarless blouse both Wilfred, silk zebra print shorts Balmain, snakeskin wedges Sam Edelman.



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