What makes a movie successful is a filmmaker’s talent and ability to portray humanity, life and truth. If these elements exist, everything else usually falls into place.
“Blow,” released by New Line Cinema, is definitely a successful movie. It is based on the true story of George Jung, played by Johnny Depp, the first American to become a conduit to the Colombian Cocaine Cartel in the 1970s. The film chronicles Jung’s life from childhood to the present day, where he is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence.
Jung is first seen as a child stuck in the middle of his parents’ bittersweet marriage. His mother, played by Rachel Griffiths, desires wealth and constantly leaves Jung’s father, portrayed by Ray Liotta. Early in the film, Jung’s father tells his son that money isn’t real, and that the true value of life exists on an entirely separate realm from material wealth. But Jung is determined not to end up poor like his family, so shortly after graduating from high school, he moves to California to pursue his dream of happiness and success.
There, he meets some of the most important people in his life, including his true love, Barbara, played by Franka Potente, and her successful marijuana dealer, played by Paul Reubens. Before Jung knows it, he is part of a team of powerful marijuana traders. Overnight he is living out his American dream — he has real love, friendship and victory. But, “when you’re up, it’s never as good as it seems …” Jung said. Soon, everything loses its stability, and Jung finds himself in trouble with the law for the first of many times.
While in prison, he meets another very important friend — an aspiring insider to Colombia’s rising cocaine trade, Diego Delgado, played by Jordi Molla. Jung’s fate is sealed, and, once out of prison, he and Delgado team up with infamous Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, played by Cliff Curtis. Soon after, Jung has more money and fame than he knows what to do with. On top of that, he meets Mirtha, played by Penelope Cruz, the stunning, wild woman whom he eventually marries. But despite all this glamour, Jung’s life is grossly incomplete.
“Blow” is wonderfully written and acted. Director Ted Demme brings a lovely ambience to the screen — the colors and sounds of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s are truly alive. Beyond just a fascinating story, “Blow” traces themes of true importance in its grooves: the value of love, life, family, friends and innocence. It portrays the ugliness of life as well as the beauty that inherently exists, and Jung’s journey is about finding his own happiness, even though his web is tangled with greed. “Blow” does not overglamorize the drug lifestyle, nor is it a piece of anti-drug propaganda. It simply paints life truthfully — everything in this movie is dripping with raw humanity.
One problem, however, could be that the real George Jung may not have been the tragic hero that Depp portrays. But strictly as a piece of fiction, this movie is incredibly valuable and impacting, and ultimately, it does not really matter whether the story is true.
Another trite point is that Depp does not portray a convincing aging man — the film spans about 50 years and Depp’s baby face betrays him at the end. That’s easy to overlook, though. Altogether this is a very solid movie, and I hope it will be recognized for its truth. I recommend it to anyone who appreciates real filmmaking and real life. “Blow” opens April 6, and I, for one, will see it again.