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Tropa de Elite is an amazingly good film; by turns brutally real and
It claims to be based on a true story and I find that sadly believable. The main plot revolves around the captain of an elite police unit trying to find a replacement for himself, while dealing with the birth of his child and the horrendous stress of his job, and a mission to clear out a dangerously violent slum.
There are no wholly good people in the movie, and it's frighteningly easy to compare some of what goes on to things happening in the USA (and other places) today. That said, the system of government and policing portrayed comes across as so amazingly inept and awful that it's almost like something straight out of a nightmarish sci-fi dystopia.
If I had to compare it to other movies, it comes off as a cross between Brazil, Office Space, and Full Metal Jacket. Not for the weak of stomach, and you may find yourself greatly disagreeing with the ideals of various groups portrayed (which I believe is part of the point), but I would be enormously surprised if this movie doesn't make you think and give you something to talk about.
The movie tells the story of BOPE, which is equivalent to the SWAT in
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Only difference is that, in Rio, the police is
so corrupt, that they often must fight for themselves.
The movie has action - a lot of action-, and it also touches on deep sociological problems that plague the city to these days. It's a great compliment to City of God and, in my opinion, even better. City of God shows how the drug problem started in Rio. This movie shows where the city is now.
Vagner Moura is perfect in his role. He's a great good-bad guy. The movie is brilliant.
"City of God" was just a perfect movie. "Elite Squad" goes beyond that;
it's a WTF movie.
Brutal realism, terrific acting (Wagner Moura... wow), brilliant script and plot, precise edition, unforgettable quotes... This movie is just insanely good.
If you live in a developed country you'll probably think this is just another thriller. For anyone living in a 3rd country it's way more than that: it's a brutal picture of our degradation and corruption, a revelation that runs over you like a truck.
The most striking aspect about the movie is how clearly it shows how everyone is at the same time guilty and victim in the whole war against drugs: the do-gooders NGOs, the politicians, the corrupt police and the not-corrupt but truculent "Elite Squad". It shows it precisely but with sense of humor and very smartly. In this war, everyone that proclaim to have moral and values is actually hiding skeletons in the closet. It's all a story of gangsters against gangsters in a degraded society.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In 1997, before the visit of the pope to Rio de Janeiro, Captain
Nascimento (Wagner Moura) from the elite squad BOPE (Special Police
Operation Battalion) is assigned to eliminate the risks of the drug
dealers in a dangerous slum nearby where the pope intends to be lodged.
Captain Nascimento is trying to find a man to replace him because his
wife is pregnant and he intends to quit the command and become a
trainer of the new recruits. Meanwhile, the two idealistic friends Neto
(Caio Junqueira) and Matias (André Ramiro) join the Military Police
force expecting to become honest policemen and fight the criminals.
However, they see only corruption, lack of competence and efficiency,
manipulation of data and stupid bureaucracy in the Military Police, and
after a serious incident in the Morro da Babilônia, they decide to join
the BOPE. The lives of Capitain Nascimento, Neto and Matias are
entwined along the next months, first in the tough training period and
then in action against drug dealers. Nascimento believes that Neto
could be his substitute, but his impulsive attitudes jeopardize his
choice. Later, the intelligent Matias seems to be the correct choice,
but he needs to prove that he has heart.
"Tropa de Elite" is the most impressive and realistic movie I have ever seen about the police forces in Rio de Janeiro and the role of the society in Brazil. In a city surrounded by more than seven hundred slums, actually lands without law and ruled by drug lords, this movie depicts the corruption of dirty policemen, the incorrect behavior of part of the society and the importance of the BOPE, a team of well trained men that can be compared to the American SWAT. The narrative in off of Captain Nascimento follows his saga, showing an obstinate man divided between his professionalism and love for his career and his family; Neto, an impulsive and honest military policeman, but not smart to be a leader; and Matias, who is studying in law school and is very intelligent and also honest, but is not totally committed with his responsibilities of policeman. The story is so realistic that seems to be a documentary with scenes very well choreographed. The direction of José Padilha is simply outstanding, using a magnificent screenplay and excellent actors and actresses. In an inevitable comparison with "Cidade de Deus" ("City of God"), these movies complement each other. "Cidade de Deus" discloses the lives of criminals, and "Tropa de Elite" of policemen and part of the society. This movie should be nominated to the Oscar, but unfortunately what the Academy usually selects does not correspond to the best of the cinema. My vote is ten.
Title (Brazil): "Tropa de Elite" ("Elite Squad")
Obs: (a) On 29 September 2007, I saw this outstanding movie again with a group of friends and family.
(b) "Tropa de Elite" was awarded with the Golden Bear of the Berlin Festival on 16 February 2008.
(c) The DVD is scheduled to be released on 28 February 2008.
(d) Many expressions used in this movie ("Aspira" ("Ensign"), "Bota no Saco" ("Put in the Plastic Bag"), "Pede Para Sair" ("Ask to Get Out"), "Você é Moleque Não é Caveira" ("You Are a Kid, not a Skull") etc.) have been incorporated in Brazilian Popular Culture.
(e) "Bota no Saco" ("Put in the Plastic Bag") the Brazilian Commission that has not selected this movie to dispute a nomination to the Oscar in the Best Foreign Language category.
"Tropa de Elite" isn't merely one more Brazilian film on urban
violence; it's a cathartic socio-cultural phenomenon of almost
unprecedented proportions in Brazil, the omnipresent theme on TV talk
shows, newspapers articles, bars and dinner tables. Prior to its
theatrical release this October, "Tropa" was seen by an estimated
record 11 million people who bought pirate DVD copies or illegally
downloaded it on the net (the biggest Brazilian box-office success in
the last 25 years was "2 Filhos de Francisco" with 5,5 million tickets
The reaction is passionately polarized: some call it the best Brazilian movie since "City of God" -- a definite influence here, in the cinematography, editing and screenplay structure, with an omniscient narrator and use of mixed chronology -- exposing the endemic corruption of Rio de Janeiro's police force and the "unorthodox" methods used by BOPE (the self-called "incorruptible" elite squad of Rio's military police force, created in 1978 and inspired by the U.S. SWAT) that include torture and shoot-first-ask-later modus operandi in the ultra-violent, ever-growing drug war in Rio's favelas. Others have publicly attacked it as fascist in its glorification of BOPE, its sadistic depiction of torture and the reductionist, simple-minded vision of the complex issues involving violence/ drugs/police corruption in Rio.
Director José Padilha and co-writer Rodrigo Pimentel (a former BOPE captain who left the squad for disagreeing with its praxis) had collaborated in the extraordinary "Bus 174", a multi-faceted documentary on Rio's violence. In "Tropa", they controversially chose to give us a deliberately biased vision of the problem: from the start we're stuck with one man, the overstressed, rebellious, self-righteous Capt Nascimento (Wagner Moura) in his journey into becoming a psychopathic sadist and hot-blooded killer, who believes drug traffic is caused by the druggie middle-class bourgeoisie (as if the poor didn't do drugs!) and claims the solution is to kill all traffickers. To Nascimento, corruption is abominable; torture isn't.
Nascimento is the film's absolute protagonist, narrator, commentator and "truth-puker". In his mind, all non-elite policemen are corrupt and incompetent, all charity NGOs in the favelas are cover-up fraudulent enterprises, all college students are useless double-faced potheads, and legal procedures are an inefficient waste of time. He's nearer to the traffickers' violent, revenge-based, lawless ethics than he's ever able to realize.
"There's nothing wrong with shooting people if you shoot the right people", used to say Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry back in the 1970s, and it could well be Capt. Nascimento's motto. He's a vigilante in uniform, in the tradition of the executioners played by Eastwood, Bronson, Stallone and 24 Hours' Jack Bauer; he's the heir to the 1970s' Brazilian military regime know-how on torture. Yet, the film tries hard at "humanizing" Nascimento: his wife's pregnant, his marriage falters, he's moved to tears by the suffering of a mother who lost her son in the traffic war, he's in medication for his panic attacks. AND he's trying to save the POPE's life, no less!
All the other characters are just rough sketches or caricatures. The one character who might be the classical "narrator/observer" (like Buscapé/Rocket in "City of God") is the idealist, Foucault-reading aspiring police officer Mathias (though it's hard to believe an aspiring officer could afford to attend Rio's most expensive law school). But Mathias, too, is finally co-opted by the brainwashing "Full-Metal-Jacket"-like BOPE training that changes him into an amoral beast fueled with rage.
Padilha says he wanted to portray Nascimento as a monster, and that audiences who are hailing Nascimento as a "hero" and BOPE as a "model" institution have caught him by surprise -- oh, really? Padilha is probably being sarcastic, naive or silly: everybody knows movie vigilante cops have been consistently idolized the world over (and co- writer Pimentel has publicly disagreed, stating the "Tropa" is clearly pro-BOPE). The graphic, sadistic scenes of torture -- supposedly meant to inspire disgust -- make the delight of a large vigilante-minded part of the audience. And Wagner Moura's extraordinary, scary performance as Nascimento is unsettling: we can't dismiss him as a stupid fascist the way we dismissed inarticulate stiffs like Bronson, Seagal or Stallone. The fact is that there's now a BOPE cult-following, with BOPE's logo (a skull pierced by pistols and knives) reproduced on t-shirts and underwear, BOPE officers being cheered in the streets in their armored "glory", and young kids (from all social classes) mimicking the film's "bag-in-the-head torture" as a new bullying style.
Militarists and pacifists will hardly change sides after the watching the film; militarists will have multiple orgasms and pacifists will cringe in horror. The filmmakers aren't interested in seriously discussing the drug issue (legalization is not even mentioned as an option). Nor in exposing Rio's drug traffic's multi-fingered interconnections, the zillion-dollar, highly organized international business involving farmers, money-washing executives, chemistry labs, gun-runners, bankers, politicians, accountants, lawyers, transport systems, etc. Nor in showing the real victims: the majority of the favela inhabitants, who aren't involved in the drug business but have to live under its rules, mere "extras" whose fate (in movies and in real life) is to be used, humiliated, segregated or, worse, wounded/killed by random bullets from BOTH policemen and traffickers.
"Tropa" is a must-see film, but it's misleading and entrapping: by opting for an "open", "what would YOU do?" ending (probably influenced by the breathtaking finale of "Paradise Now"), the filmmakers demands us to take sides about a very, VERY complex issue they've shown us only ONE angle of. "Tropa" is cinematically dazzling, but so physically and ideologically nauseating you'll need an antidote -- be sure to also watch the faceted, influential documentary "Notícias de uma Guerra Particular" and be aware of many other angles to a terrible reality that plagues not only Rio, but most of Third World's chaotic, no-man's-land, way out-of- control big cities.
If you loved City of God and Carandiru, you have to see this movie.
Maybe it's the most complex Brazilian movie about violence. It combines
a discussion about the problem of violence in Rio de Janeiro, the
police corruption and the society responsibility and, what is more
important, Elite Squad is a terrific thriller: nervous, intriguing and
entertaining. Cinema at it's best.
Bráulio Mantovani, from City of God, wrote the screenplay and Daniel Rezend, also from CDD, is the editor (Both nominated to the Oscar).
Above, one article about the film:
"WASHINGTON (Reuters Life!)
characters lie dead in the street within minutes of the opening of Brazilian director Jose Padilha's new film which he hopes will shed new light on gang violence and police corruption in his country.
"Elite Squad," which Padilha wrote with former Rio police officer Rodrigo Pimentel, follows two young Rio de Janeiro police officers as their fantasy of implementing law and order disintegrates into bloodshed and corruption.
It details night raids through the makeshift homes of the city's hillside slums known as favelas, as well as the stark class differences that feed an appetite for riches among many of its poor residents.
Padilha, 39, said he had originally hoped to use the information he received from Pimentel for a documentary but quickly realized that it would not be feasible.
"How would I do this, go to corrupt cops with cameras?" he asks. "If I tried to make this film as a documentary, it would probably get me killed." Padilha, whose highly-acclaimed debut film "Bus 174" about a real-life bus hijacking in Rio was released in 2002, has strived to make the film as realistic as possible, shooting much of the film on the favelas' narrow streets.
"Elite Squad" is based on Pimentel's account of his tenure as captain of Rio's elite police force which has come under attack by Amnesty International for brutality.
Like "Bus 174," it exposes the darker elements of Brazil that contrast vividly with the nation's colorful, extravagant Carnival celebrations."
It's the best police movie I've ever seen.
It'so realistic, specially the shots. The "microwave" scene was also perfect!
There is nothing compared to this film! I haven't seen one single person who watched this film which have seen it only once. It will surely win festivals! The film is not finished yet (someone put it in the internet illegally)and it have been incredibly so well accepted by everybody who have seen it, so we can guess how it will be when it finally be released in the Cinema. It probably have been the most searched film in the internet in Brazil the last 2 weeks.
There are rumors it's censored and producers are fighting against that! Anyway, that's the best police film I've ever seen and surely the best of 2007.
Elite Squad is a most see movie. Despite all of the frenesi it's
causing all around, it has a good storyline, excellent screenplay and a
brilliant performance from all the cast in the movie, especially Wagner
Moura who deserves all prizes he can get for this great performance.
Basically the movie explores the fight between drug dealers and corrupt cops against the good policemen's, some of them from the military police force and most of them from BOPE. That's the way the director Padilha's sees this fight which is not entirely true. Although it shows how the corruption of the Military Police Force works out in Brazil, how the system is used against itself and how the bureaucracy makes everything so difficult that it's almost impossible for honest people to deal with their own personal issues without dealing with corruption. And by the way, that's entirely true.
The baseline of the movie is the story of Nascimento's, who is the captain of BOPE (Special Forces Operations Battalion) which can be compared to SWAT. Nascimento needs a replacement and he needs to find the right person, someone who has all of the qualities the job demands. Two guys come up to be this person but none of them have all it takes. Neto has the attitude, the heart, but he's not smart and centered as he's best buddy Matias. The only thing they have in common which is mandatory for the job is the honesty and the will of changing things for the better.
The movie has all the elements that makes us go to a movie theater. It has a storyline, it has action thriller, and it has a great performance from the cast, all of them.
If you are planning to spend your money in another blockbuster, don't do it! Give a chance to this great movie that explores the WAR that we, from Rio de Janeiro, have to deal with everyday. It's not only about the fun you are going to have watching this peace of work but the truth you are going to see on it.
If you have enjoyed City of God or felt like something was missing on it, then this is the movie you need to see. Everything here is placed respecting the reality... Scenes are very realistic and all action makes you feel like be in part of it. It shows how policemen are involved with criminals and how many policemen are not involved at all and get blamed by society due to some bad fruits. It shows how family can get affected how two guys with same purpose can get trapped in two different situations.. And shows how a man can be changed by the environment that simply leads him to do what he must. That's how we do a great movie without wasting millions of $$$. Perfect movie, dramatic, sensitive and intelligent.
Elite Squad has in my opinion surpassed the genius of Cidade de Deus.
The movie is shot like a documentary, many times in fact I felt like I
was intrigued and interested on how and what the police does to get
around the city.
It is basically about the two main characters working their way up the police academy in Rio until they reach the BOPE unit. The training is shown to be very harsh, sometimes even dehumanizing. The movie depicts life of police men in the city and what they do to overcome the unfortunate bureaucracies. I will try hold myself to not say anymore because I do not want to spoil it for you.
This movie is violent. It is not unnecessary violence, because its depictions are said to be accurate. (Rio politicians have spoken about its veracity).
Even the production of this masterpiece was bounded by violence. While in production, part of the crew was kidnapped. An unedited version of Elite Squad together with dozens of fake weapons were stolen as well.
You will be amazed through out the whole film, thats a promise.
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