• Release Date : 15/06/2018
  • Cast : Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Pater Sarsgaard
  • Director : Fernando León de Aranoa
  • Written By: Fernando León de Aranoa (Screenplay), Virginia Vallejo (book)

Pablo Escobar, a name that keeps popping up in pop culture references more than Superman, Batman and Quentin Tarantino these days. Films like Escobar: Paradise Lost, The Sins of My father, The Infiltrator (The emphasis was on the man who tried to track him down), Narcos (Netflix original Series), American Made (the emphasis was on Barry Seal, one of Pablo’s dope transport pilots) and a countless more motion picture and series have documented the life and exploits of a man who became larger than a country. He was a man who became a billionaire in 2 years. A man who killed hundreds and yet lived like a king. A man who made the government dedicate a whole military unit for his capture. As I dug deeper and deeper into the folklore surrounding Pablo, a name kept popping up every now and then, Virginia Vallejo. One of the biggest television personalities of Columbia, Vallejo was romantically involved with Escobar and post his assassination wrote a book about her entanglement with him. Loving Pablo is based on that very book.

Javier Bardem is one of my favorite actors of recent times and the fact that he is essaying the role of the man, made me that much more interested in the film. The film chronicles the journey of Pablo from his early days of rise through the ranks of the Madeline Cartel to him actually taking over the politics of Columbia (even if it was temporary). We then see how he was forced out of Columbia because of how brutally he squashed any opposition that came in his way (which included gunning down ministers, cops, journalists etc). The film also takes us through Escobar’s elaborate plans to overthrow a treaty that endangered his existence, his tumultuous family life and of course his love and hate relationship with Virginia Vallejo herself. We see all of it through the eyes of Virginia vividly documented and entertainingly re-told.

The film has so much to deal with that it is overwhelmingly entertaining. This is a film that has so much material that no one will not get it in one go. But the fact also remains that everytime you watch this film, you will be entertained a little more. Atleast that was the case with me. I have come across multiple reviews sighting issues with the plot, screenplay and even some of the performances. I didn’t have any such issues though. I guess I was so much entertained by the principal performances and the insane control and power of the man on display that I forgot to look for the loopholes if there were any. The whirlwind pace and captivating screenplay also had a lot to do with it. But then I question myself that if a film is that entertaining that you forget to notice the flaws, is there actually any need of highlighting those flaws. The answer that came to me was a “NO”.

Javier Bardem is terrific. Even with the added makeup towards the end which obviously felt awkward, he acted his heart out. I don’t know Pablo. Never have I seen his mannerism or heard his voice. Hence it is comparatively easier for me to accept Bardem’s interpretation of the man. Once that happens it becomes even easier to enjoy his act. I loved the bits where he is shown making plans, ordering kills and delivering speeches that are rousing. The portions with his family are great too but the best he keeps for his interactions with Penelope Cruz. As the film progresses, through their meeting we get to see the arc that both the characters go through.

They start off from a point where Pablo is in awe of Virginia and vice versa. They quickly get attracted. Pablo becomes bigger and Virginia ends up enjoying the best of his resources. Then he turns violent and Virginia becomes a target of the enemies of Pablo (which he explains to her in a horrifying sequence). As the story progresses, things get worse between the two and the last meeting that they have ends in Pablo nearly beating her up. The essence of the film lies in these meetings and through these meeting we get to see how the life and time of Pablo is changing.

Penelope Cruise is wonderful. She is always a delight in everything that she does. In Virginia Vallejo, she gets a character that cuts really close to her personality and comfort zone. She doesn’t look out of place in any of the sequences that she is a part of. What’s great is her interpretation and expression of sequences where she is expecting physical violence on her. There is a sequence where a bunch of people try to shoot her but she is saved by a rock solid glass. This sequence puts a finger on what exactly I am trying to say here. And it’s needless to say that she looks gorgeous all the way through even when she is in a bad shape.

Loving Pablo is uproariously fun. It’s entertaining to the extent that I wouldn’t mind watching it back to back thrice. For all the flaws and factual errors and everything else, I guess we can forgive this one for the sheer amount of entertainment that it has on offer. Bardem is in his top game. He is complemented wonderfully by Cruz. The film is beautifully shot and efficiently edited. It has a background score that even though doesn’t have much character, still has enough to be music for the years. This is the kind of film that even though is based on facts should be watched purely as fiction. I loved it and I believe that will be the case with one and all who watch it with an open mind.

Rating : 3.5 /5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)




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