Wagner Moura became one of Netflix’s most memorable faces when he assumed the role of infamous drug czar Pablo Escobar in the hit series Narcos. The series, while based off of true events, is also a fictional account of the late kingpin’s life as a cocaine trafficker and public enemy number one in Colombia. The received rave reviews and I enjoyed it immensely. I was aware of Escobar’s story before watching the show and knew that the producers would tweak some parts of the story to enhance its seduction. The created a hit that will remain one of the best products of the digital behemoth. But some of us may be asking ourselves, how much did Netflix get right? And what did they change as they filmed the show? Shaun Attwood goes behind the camera and revisits the real story of Pablo’s rise and downfall that lead to his death on December 2, 1993 in the city of Medellín.
Attwood gives a brief recap of Escobar’s early life before returning the story at hand, his time as a narco. And it is here that the story quickly picks up speed. Netflix changed some of the names of the major players in the story most likely for either legal or creative reasons. For some readers, they may need to quickly catch clips of the show to match the characters. The deaths are also different but follow the same narration as the show. Pablo once again takes center stage with a supporting cast of deadly enforcers. Combined with the animosity of rival cartels, law enforcement, revels and a president determined to see Escobar fall, the war on Escobar and drug trafficking nearly turned Colombia into a bloodbath. The violence and increase in American consumption in cocaine, earned Escobar the wrath of Washington, then under control of President George H.W. Bush. Attwood probes in the battle between the two and Washington’s many actions to bring the drug lord down. Some are familiar but other information might be surprising for some readers who were unaware of the extent of Washington’s involvement in Escobar’s apprehension.
In spite of changes by the producers of Narcos, the show did an excellent job of telling the story. The actors in the show all did an incredible job of bringing the past alive again in stunningly vivid detail. The cinematography was beyond amazing and Colombia became enchanting real, a beautify country caught in an unfortunate situation. As I read the book, I involuntarily pictured the actors from the show as I read the conversations that are put on display in the book. And although their faces and names are changed, their roles in the story are not. To be fair to Attwood, the book is not a biography of Escobar, so readers in search of that will be disappointment. But for those who want to know what was changed during the filming of Narcos and what really happened, Attwood does a great job of putting it together in a narrative easy to follow and thoroughly engaging.
Twenty-three years have passed since his death but Escobar continues to live in pop culture, documentaries and on the internet. To be fair, a large number of traffickers existed at the time Escobar made his name. Some of them are still alive today while others are incarcerated or deceased. Regardless of their present status, none have come close to matching the man who could arguably be called narco number one. In future years, he will continue to fascinate and mystify and his story is re-told and readopted for the silver screen. In death he has become martyr, icon and glimpse into Colombia’s dangerous past. Narcos has yet to be discovered, but more viewers will tune into the show and have many questions about the true story. With books such as these, they will find the answers that they seek.