Analysis of Narcos

Screenplay Rating:


Executive Summary

The screenplay shows promise in effectively establishing the technological capabilities of the U.S. government, introducing the main character and setting up conflicts between the Narcos and the DEA. However, there is room for improvement in dialogue, character development, and smooth transitions between scenes. The screenplay would benefit from clearer stakes and consequences, stronger hooks, and more context on the emerald trade and Gacha's brutality. Overall, the narrative is engaging and explores the power dynamics of the drug trade, but could further develop character arcs and emotional connections.

  • The scene effectively establishes the technological capabilities of the U.S. government in intercepting phone calls and tracking targets. (Scene 1)
  • The scene effectively introduces the main character, Steve Murphy, and establishes his role as a DEA agent embedded in Colombia. (Scene 2)
  • The scene effectively establishes the tense and somber tone through the discovery of the young Colombian girl's body. (Scene 3)
  • The scene effectively introduces the concept of cocaine addiction and its effects on the brain through the use of the rat experiment. (Scene 4)
  • The scene effectively establishes the brutal and violent nature of the drug trade through the mowing down of party guests and the carnage that follows. (Scene 5)
Areas of Improvement
  • The dialogue could be more engaging and impactful. (Scene 1)
  • The scene could benefit from more character development, particularly for secondary characters like Connie Murphy and Colonel Carillo. (Scene 2)
  • The transition between the DEA office and the archival footage could be smoother. (Scene 3)
  • The transition between the laboratory scene and the border checkpoint scene could be smoother. (Scene 4)
  • The transition between the cocktail party and the checkpoint scene could be smoother. (Scene 5)
  • More character development for Murphy and the operators. (Scene 1)
  • A clearer sense of the stakes and consequences of the interception operation. (Scene 1)
  • A stronger hook or cliffhanger at the end of the scene to keep the audience engaged. (Scene 1)
  • A clearer conflict or tension within the scene that drives the narrative forward. (Scene 4)
  • More context and background information on the emerald trade and Gacha's increasing brutality. (Scene 5)
  • The scene effectively sets up the conflict between the Narcos and the DEA, creating anticipation for future confrontations. (Scene 1)
  • The scene includes a dramatic moment with the shootout at La Dispensaria, which adds excitement and action to the story. (Scene 2)
  • The introduction of Mateo Moreno, aka 'Cockroach,' creates intrigue and sets up a potential future conflict. (Scene 3)
  • The scene effectively highlights the power and allure of cocaine, setting up the central theme of the screenplay. (Scene 4)
  • The use of Pablo's knowledge of the DAS agents' names and personal details to intimidate them and negotiate a deal showcases his intelligence and manipulation skills. (Scene 5)
Summary The movie follows the efforts of DEA agent Steve Murphy in the fight against drug trafficking in Colombia. Murphy intercepts a phone call from a narco named Poison, leading to a bloody shootout and the capture of several narcos. He falls for a woman named Connie, who is revealed to be connected to Pablo Escobar. The film also highlights the violence and moral dilemmas faced by law enforcement and healthcare professionals in the midst of the drug war, and the escalating violence between Pablo and the authorities.

Screenplay Story Analysis

Story Critique The overall plot/story of the screenplay is engaging and suspenseful, with well-developed characters and a strong emotional tone. The scenes are well-written and effectively convey the tension and conflict. The use of voiceover and visual elements adds depth to the storytelling. However, there are some areas that could be improved. The transitions between scenes could be smoother, as some of them feel abrupt. Additionally, the dialogue in some scenes could be more natural and nuanced. There are also a few instances where the conflict is not fully resolved or explored, leaving some plot points feeling unresolved. Overall, the plot/story is solid, but could benefit from further refinement and development.
Suggestions: To improve the plot/story, consider refining the transitions between scenes to create a more seamless flow. Work on enhancing the dialogue to make it more natural and nuanced, allowing the characters to express themselves more fully. Additionally, explore the unresolved conflicts and plot points further to provide a more satisfying resolution. Consider adding more depth to the character arcs, allowing them to grow and change throughout the story. Finally, consider tightening the pacing in some scenes to maintain the suspense and keep the audience engaged.

Note: This is the overall critique. For scene by scene critique click here

Characters in the screenplay, and their arcs:

Javier Peña

Javier Peña is a Mexican-American DEA agent with a casual demeanor who enjoys scotch. He is passionate and determined about taking down the narcos, working closely with his colleagues to make sacrifices for the mission. Peña is intelligent, resourceful, and dedicated to combating the drug trade, forming strong working relationships with his colleagues to achieve their goals.

Colonel Carillo

Colonel Carillo is a seasoned and highly skilled military officer who is determined to capture the narcos and bring them to justice. He is strategic and decisive, with years of experience dealing with the complex operations involved in capturing dangerous criminals. Carillo is respected by his colleagues and subordinates for his leadership skills, his strategic thinking, and his unwavering dedication to the mission at hand. He is a family man who takes pride in his work, but also understands the personal toll that comes with such a dangerous job.

DEA Agent Steve Murphy

Steve Murphy is a dedicated and resourceful DEA agent who is deeply embedded in Colombia. He has a strong sense of justice and is determined to bring down the narcos and disrupt the drug trade. He possesses excellent analytical skills and is quick on his feet when confronting dangerous situations. Despite the personal sacrifices he has made to pursue his mission, he remains committed to his work and driven by a desire to make a positive difference in the world.

Pablo Escobar

Pablo Escobar is a powerful and ruthless narco who controls the drug trade in Colombia. He is confident, charismatic, and willing to do whatever it takes to maintain his empire. He is also deeply devoted to his family and loyal to those who are loyal to him.

Character Arc Critique Suggestions
Javier Peña Javier Peña's character arc starts with his initial excitement about capturing narcos, but transforms into a passionate determination to bring down the drug trade, despite the personal sacrifices it entails. He faces challenging situations that test his courage and commitment to the mission, but ultimately emerges as a clever and dedicated DEA agent who succeeds in making a significant impact on the drug trade in his area. Overall, Javier Peña's character is well-developed and adds depth to the movie. However, his arc could have been more nuanced, particularly in terms of showing his character growth. Additionally, his casual demeanor and love for scotch could be balanced with more serious moments that highlight the gravity of the situation he is fighting against.
To improve Javier Peña's arc, it would be beneficial to show more moments of personal sacrifice and struggle, highlighting the emotional toll of his work. A potential way to balance his casual demeanor could be to show him struggling to reconcile his personal life with his job, perhaps through a budding romantic relationship with a local woman that is complicated by his mission. This could add more depth to his character and show the human side of his work.
Colonel Carillo Throughout the course of the movie, Colonel Carillo's character arc is defined by his growing realization of the true cost of the war on drugs. At first, he is single-minded in his pursuit of the narcos, driven solely by a desire to take down the people who are responsible for so much violence and destruction. However, as the operation drags on and the casualties mount, Carillo begins to question the efficacy of the strategy they are pursuing. He sees the suffering of the people caught in the crossfire, and becomes aware of the collateral damage wrought by the war on drugs. In the end, he is left with a sense of disillusionment, recognizing that the war on drugs is a never-ending cycle of violence that can never truly be won. The character arc for Colonel Carillo is well-developed, but it would benefit from more concrete evidence of his disillusionment with the war on drugs. The movie could benefit from showing more scenes of Carillo interacting with the people who are affected by the war, and seeing more tangible evidence of the human cost of the operation. Additionally, the arc would be stronger if Carillo had more agency in the outcome of the operation. As it stands, he seems somewhat passive, simply reacting to events rather than driving them forward.
To improve the character arc for Colonel Carillo, the script could include more scenes showing him interacting with the people affected by the war on drugs. We could see him visiting hospitals where the wounded are being treated, or talking to family members of people who have been killed in the crossfire. Additionally, Carillo could have more of a role in driving the plot forward, perhaps by making key strategic decisions that have a significant impact on the outcome of the operation. This would give his disillusionment with the war more weight, as it would feel more like a personal journey driven by his actions.
DEA Agent Steve Murphy Over the course of the screenplay, Steve Murphy’s character arc follows the trajectory of his journey from an enthusiastic, law-abiding agent to a disillusioned and conflicted figure. At first, his sole focus is on capturing the narcos and bringing them to justice. He is confident in his abilities and the tactics used by the DEA to combat drug trafficking. However, as the violence and corruption of the drug trade increase, he begins to question the morality of his actions and the effectiveness of the drug war. His growing disillusionment is sparked by his close relationship with his Colombian partner and friend, Javier Peña, and his exposure to the brutal realities of the drug trade. Ultimately, his arc culminates in a final, emotionally charged decision to abandon his mission and leave Colombia, realizing that the drug war is not winnable. The character arc of Steve Murphy is well-crafted, with a clear progression from idealism to disillusionment that is both believable and compelling. However, it could benefit from further development in terms of his personal relationships and the emotional toll of his work in Colombia. While his partnership with Peña is central to the story, their friendship could be fleshed out more fully, adding depth to Murphy’s character and enhancing the impact of their final goodbye. Additionally, more attention could be paid to the psychological impact of his work on Murphy, particularly in relation to the violence and corruption he witnesses.
To improve the character arc of Steve Murphy, the screenwriter could focus on building more complex and nuanced relationships between him and the other characters, especially Peña and his wife Connie. Specifically, the writer could delve deeper into the emotional impact of his work on these relationships and how they contribute to his growing disillusionment. They could also explore the psychological trauma that Murphy experiences as a result of his exposure to the drug war in Colombia. Finally, the screenplay could devote more time to exploring his moral conflict and the ethical implications of his actions, particularly in dialogue with Peña and other DEA agents.
Pablo Escobar At the beginning of the film, Pablo's arc is one of rising power and influence. He consolidates control over the drug trade in Colombia, using both violence and negotiation to achieve his goals. However, as his empire grows, he becomes increasingly paranoid and isolated, leading to a series of costly mistakes that ultimately lead to his downfall. As he faces his own mortality, he is forced to confront the legacy of his actions and the impact they have had on those around him. The character arc presented here is fairly standard for a crime movie - rise to power, fall from grace, and redemption. However, the description of Pablo's character is quite one-dimensional, focusing only on his ruthlessness and devotion to family. To make the arc more compelling, it would be helpful to flesh out his character with more complex motivations and emotions.
To improve the character arc, it would be helpful to explore more deeply why Pablo is so driven to maintain power and control. What is the source of his desire for wealth and influence? Additionally, it would be interesting to see more of his relationships with other characters, particularly those outside his immediate family and inner circle. How do they view and interact with him, and how do those interactions affect his trajectory? By expanding on these aspects of the character, the arc could become more nuanced and emotionally impactful.
Theme Theme Details Themee Explanation
Morality and EthicsPeña and Murphy's differing views on the morality of their actionsThe theme of morality and ethics is explored through Peña and Murphy's conflicting perspectives on their actions in the drug war. Peña questions the human cost of their operations, while Murphy defends his actions by arguing that good and bad are relative concepts.
Violence and ConflictBloody shootout at La Dispensaria, violent shootout at the restaurant, shootout at the cocktail party, Murphy shooting and killing a teenagerViolence and conflict are prevalent themes throughout the screenplay. From the bloody shootouts to the violent confrontations between drug dealers and law enforcement, the story explores the brutal and dangerous world of the drug trade.
Power and ControlPablo using his knowledge of the agents' names and personal details to negotiate a deal, Pablo intimidating others with his power, Gustavo warning Cockroach not to disrespect PabloPower and control are central themes in the screenplay. Pablo Escobar exerts his influence and control over others through intimidation and manipulation. The characters navigate a world where power dynamics determine their fate.
Addiction and its ConsequencesMurphy's narration about the city's addiction to drugs and the violence that comes with it, pregnant Colombian girl overdosing on cocaineThe theme of addiction and its consequences is explored through Murphy's narration about the city's addiction to drugs and the tragic events that occur as a result. The pregnant Colombian girl's overdose highlights the devastating impact of drug addiction.
Betrayal and LoyaltyCockroach turning to Pablo Escobar as a potential partner, Cockroach's betrayal, tension between Pablo and GustavoBetrayal and loyalty are recurring themes in the screenplay. Cockroach's betrayal of Gacha and his subsequent partnership with Pablo Escobar exemplify the complex dynamics of trust and loyalty in the drug trade.

Screenwriting Resources on Themes


Site Description
Studio Binder Movie Themes: Examples of Common Themes for Screenwriters
Coverfly Improving your Screenplay's theme
John August Writing from Theme

YouTube Videos

Title Description
Story, Plot, Genre, Theme - Screenwriting Basics Screenwriting basics - beginner video
What is theme Discussion on ways to layer theme into a screenplay.
Thematic Mistakes You're Making in Your Script Common Theme mistakes and Philosophical Conflicts
Goals and Philosophical Conflict
internal Goals The protagonist's internal goals evolve throughout the script, reflecting their desire for protection, success, knowledge, wealth, power, and justice.
External Goals The protagonist's external goals involve intercepting and gathering information from the Narcos, capturing drug dealers, conducting experiments, establishing connections, evaluating feasibility, impressing others, transporting drugs, surviving shootouts, negotiating, and testifying in court.
Philosophical Conflict The overarching philosophical conflict revolves around the protagonist's struggle with morality, justice, power, corruption, and the consequences of their actions.

Character Development Contribution: The protagonist's evolving internal and external goals reflect their growth, conflicts, and desires, contributing to their development as a complex and multi-dimensional character.

Narrative Structure Contribution: The protagonist's goals and conflicts drive the narrative structure, creating tension, suspense, and a sense of progression as they navigate through various challenges and dilemmas.

Thematic Depth Contribution: The protagonist's goals and conflicts explore themes of morality, justice, power, corruption, and the consequences of one's actions, adding depth and complexity to the screenplay's thematic exploration.

Screenwriting Resources on Goals and Philosophical Conflict


Site Description
Creative Screenwriting How Important Is A Character’s Goal?
Studio Binder What is Conflict in a Story? A Quick Reminder of the Purpose of Conflict

YouTube Videos

Title Description
How I Build a Story's Philosophical Conflict How do you build philosophical conflict into your story? Where do you start? And how do you develop it into your characters and their external actions. Today I’m going to break this all down and make it fully clear in this episode.
Endings: The Good, the Bad, and the Insanely Great By Michael Arndt: I put this lecture together in 2006, when I started work at Pixar on Toy Story 3. It looks at how to write an "insanely great" ending, using Star Wars, The Graduate, and Little Miss Sunshine as examples. 90 minutes
Tips for Writing Effective Character Goals By Jessica Brody (Save the Cat!): Writing character goals is one of the most important jobs of any novelist. But are your character's goals...mushy?