Killing Escobar

Rating 7.8
Streamer BBC iPlayer
Seasons 1
Episodes 1 x 90 mins

This is the engrossing tale of how a team of hired assassins attempted in 1989 to assassinate the “King of Cocaine” Pablo Escobar, under orders from a rival drugs cartel. Told through two men who planned the operation, Peter McAleese and Dave Tomkins, it is a rip-roaring story of bravery, foolhardiness, and (spoiler alert) failure, when the men are unable to earn a million dollars by bringing back the severed head of their target. 

Combining personal archive, amateur footage and dramatic reconstruction, it’s a film with guns and helicopters a-plenty, but also a personal and affecting tale of a man whose life started in a tough household in Scotland. Leaving Glasgow for the Parachute Regiment in 1960, McAleese put his aggression into the army, seeing action in the SAS before fighting as a mercenary in Africa. Killing Escobar tells a gripping story about what happened next. 

For a drama series on Pablo Escobar, check out Narcos on Netflix

Anita Singh in The Telegraph rated the documentary, saying that the most absorbing parts were those “in which we learned how the mission was planned, from an airborne recce of Escobar’s ranch to footage of McAleese delivering an eve-of-battle pep talk.” She adds, “It was possible to marvel at the audacity of these men while accepting that they were not heroes.” In The Times Carol Midgley acknowledges that most viewers will know what happened to Escobar: “Despite this narrative anticlimax it turned into an engrossing tale of something else, namely the spiritual and emotional awakening of soldier and all-round Glasgow hardman-you-don’t-mess-with Peter McAleese.”

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