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Narcos Season 1 will get you hooked! (Blu-ray Review)

Narcos Season 1 will get you hooked! (Blu-ray Review)The story of Narcos is based on true events and narrated through the perspective of American DEA agent, Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook).  It takes place during the late seventies and early eighties.  A time when Escobar, who at the young age of 25 had already established himself as a connected trafficker of stolen goods with significant control over the Police.  Realizing that the true war against drugs could not be fought in the States, Murphy convinces his wife to move to Colombia where he can get closer to taking down what is quickly becoming a powerful industry unto itself.

Narcos Season 1 will get you hooked! (Blu-ray Review)

 

Series
Like most of Netflix’s original programming, Narcos is shot and executed just like a big budget movie.  The cinematography of Colombia is truly breathtaking to behold.  It plays an elegant counterpoint as we witness how Cocaine was first brought to the States.  This isn’t your garden variety gangster show.  Narcos doesn’t have a flamboyant “Tony Montana“, or an affable “Tony Soprano” type.  Instead, through the masterful performance of Wagner Moura, we’re shown that  someone who truly controls a criminal empire is not loud and gregarious, but quiet and contemplative.  At least during the beginning of their career.

My first introduction to the name Pablo Escobar was during the movie Blow starring Johnny Depp.   There is one scene where Depp‘s character, George Jung, goes to Columbia hoping to expand his new enterprise.  His contact brings him to one of Escobar’s compounds and has him wait at the entrance.  In the distance you see Escobar approach, on foot, along with a few associates, two of which are visibly armed.  Before he meets George, Escorbar approaches a man standing near a wall.  He greets the man in a friendly manner, shakes his hand, and walks away towards GeorgeEscobar’s is not twenty feet away before one of his associates shoots the man point blank in the head and Escobar doesn’t even flinch.  He regards the moment in the same way one would regard a routine maintenance issue at a factory.  Escobar pops up a few other times throughout the film.  But there is very little revealed about him other than this is a man with great power to be feared.

That movie left me with a curiosity about this mysterious and clearly dangerous figure who held such a powerful position, and yet totally missed my radar.  Sure, I’d heard of people like Al Capone and Frank Lucas, but not much about Escobar.  So when I heard that we were finally getting the inside look into the life and dealings of this man, I knew Narcos would be something to behold.  There’s a moment in the first episode where Pablo and his crew are stopped at a security checkpoint. The police tell him that they’re not the kind of cops that can be bought.  Suffice it to say Pablo ends the conversation with a simple statement, “You can be paid in Silver, or Lead”.  This pretty much sums up how Escobar was able to turn a small illegal contraband business into a billion dollar corporation.

Javier Pena (Pedro Pascal) is not only Steve Murphy’s partner, but also our entry point into the world of drugs, corruption and violence that the beautiful country of Colombia has become.  Though Pena is a bit of a Latin stereotype, in that he tries to bed just about every female he encounters, it’s through his perspective that we’re shown just how deep and high up the corruption of both Colombia AND America really goes.  I love how no single person is represented as a shining symbol of righteousness.  Every single player in this violent game has some sort of blood on their hands.  Whether it is justified or not, they leave it up to the audience to decide.

Another thing that I love about this series is how deftly they develop and showcase the many sides of Escobar.  His criminal style is reminiscent of the gangsters from the 30’s and 40’s – he presents himself as a savior to the people, while at the same time he is a cancer that slowly eats away at his own community. Ironically, Escobar’s brutality is only rivaled by his generosity. He provided free housing for the poor and actively contributed to youth activities and educational programs.

This isn’t entirely a Pablo Escobar biopic.  A good portion of the series focuses on the political corruption that occurred during that time.  Because of how influential the drug trade was on the government of Colombia we see how Escobar was able to pursue his dream of running for President of Colombia.  It’s fascinating how an entire country can turn a blind eye to the evils of a powerful man just because he pays their way in life.

I asked a friend of mine, who is from Latin America, what he thought of the show.  He said he liked it, but he felt the depiction of Escobar wasn’t entirely accurate.  He spoke very highly of Pablo, saying that he was something of a savior to the people of Colombia.  While the government seemed unable, or uninterested in providing for their citizens, Pablo provided desperate aide to those in need.  Now, based on what was shown in Narcos, he’s not entirely wrong.  But at the same time, this was someone who murdered thousands, sometimes just to prove a point.

Narcos Season 1 will get you hooked! (Blu-ray Review)

Episodes

Disc 1:
Descenso
The Sword of Simon Bolivar
The Men of Always
The Palace in Flames
Disc 2:
There Will Be a Future
Explosivos
You Will Cry Tears of Blood
Disc 3:
La Gran Mintera
La Catedral
Despegue
Narcos Season 1 will get you hooked! (Blu-ray Review)
Video
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Original aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Clarity/Detail:  Excellent! Everything is crisp and clear.  Right down to the hairs on Pablo’s chest.
Depth: Very good.  Lots of wide sweeping shots that allow you to get a broad and deep perspective of the country.
Black Levels: Not bad.  Although they could be a little deeper in some areas.
Color Reproduction:  Awesome.  Particularly the shots of the Colombian forests.
Flesh Tones: Clear and accurate.
Noise/Artifacts: None.
Narcos Season 1 will get you hooked! (Blu-ray Review)
Audio
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Dynamics: Great!  When the gun shots start going it really jolts you out of your seat!
Low Frequency Extension: Though there are some explosions towards the latter end of the series, they don’t really take full advantage of this feature.
Surround Sound: N/A.
Dialogue Reproduction:  Crisp, clear and easy to understand.  Spanish dialogue is just as important, if not more so than the English.  You would loose so much of the performances if ever word weren’t crystal clear.  Which it is here.
*
*
Extras
  • Explosivos – Audio Commentary with Executive Producer Chris Brancato.
  • Establishing the Route – Executive Producers Eric Newman, Chris Brancato and Director Jose Padilha discuss how originally Narcos was planned to be a feature film.  But as they were developing the script they realized that Pablo Escobar’s like was far to complex and detailed to be summed up in a two hour film.  Other members of the cast and crew go on to discuss their personal perspectives on playing their respective roles.
  • The Colombian Connection – The filmmakers discuss the imporatnce of filming the deries in it’s native land oc Colombia.  Though other countries would have offered better Tax incentives Colombia ultimatey choosen to remain as authentic to the story as possible.  They go on to explain how important it was for them to create something that wasn’t just another Americanized version of Escobar’s story.
  • Despegue – Audio commentary with Executive Producers Eric Newman and Director Andi Baiz.
  • The Language Barrier – The filmmakers duscuss why it was so important that this series be bilingual.  That if they were to have all of the Colombian characters speak English with Latin accents that it would’ve taken away from the authenticity of the series.  Not just for the sake of aesthetics but for historical accuracy as well.
  • Deleted Scenes.
 
Summary
I really loved every single thing about Narcos!  The filmmakers perform an exquisite balancing act of going into the grizzly details of Escobar’s life, while at the same time we’re shown the majestic beauty that is the country of Colombia.  This is one of the rare instances where a series that documents historical events is both entertaining AND informative.  Just like a lot of Netflix shows it’s totally re-watchable.  I found little things during my second viewing that I completely missed the first time around.  It truly is that riveting!
*

Narcos Season 1 arrives on Blu-ray August 23rd!

Narcos Season 1 will get you hooked! (Blu-ray Review)

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