In 1981, Colombian TV news anchor person Virginia Vallejo (Penélope Cruz
) is invited to a VIP party at Pablo Escobar's ranch. Escobar (Javier Bardem
) has become one of the richest and powerful men in the country through drug trafficking and his cartel. Virginia, seduced by his charm, starts a passionate love affair with Escobar despite the fact that he's already married to María Victoria (Julieth Restrepo
Their relationship is rocky, as the paunchy Escobar alternately intimidates and/or verbally abuses Virginia, then charms her all over again. She comes to realize Escobar is a complex man. Although he puts a great deal of money into the local economy to better the lives of the poor people in the Colombian capital of Medellín, at the same time he turns Medellín into a war zone, offering street kids cash for every slain police officer's badge they turn in to the cartel. In turn, the government executes 10 teenage boys for every slain police officer.
When DEA agent Shepard (Peter Sarsgaard) investigates Escobar's business, he contacts Virginia, hoping she'll help him in his mission to put a stop to Escobar's crimes.
Based on the book by Virginia Vallejo.