Thursday, December 25, 2014

Movie Review: Elite Squad

Elite Squad or Tropa de Elite is a Brazilian film directed by José Padilha. The movie is based on a book written André Batista and Rodrigo Pimentel. Both the authors were members of BOPE which stands for Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais. BOPE is specialized in urban warfare and often sent to favelas to keep order. If you are wondering what favelas are, then these are the slums where all the fancy action pieces in Hollywood movies are shot if the premise is set in Rio de Janeiro. If you are wondering who José Padilha is, then he is the one who directed the updated, but terrible and boring Robocop. After watching this gritty drama, you understand how Hollywood can corrupt a talented director with a gigantic budget and special effects.

The events unfold in 1997 just before the visit of Pope John Paul II to the city. In order to ensure the pope has a restful sleep, BOPE begins an operation to clean up the slums. While the action progresses, Captain Roberto Nascimento(Wagner Moura) using a voice over tells us the situation in Rio de Janeiro. The economic conditions in the city have made the cops corrupt. They are hand-in-hand with the criminals often giving them protection in return for money. But BOPE is a special task force above corruption. But life in this unit is dangerous. Nascimento wants to leave the group as his wife is pregnant, and they are expecting a baby soon. He has to choose a successor for his position, and he narrows it down to two new recruits - Matias and Neto. Do they possess the right qualities for becoming a member of BOPE team? The thought troubles Nascimento.

Using a spirited voice-over from Wagner Moura as Nascimento and shooting close to the characters, José Padilha succeeds in putting us in the middle of the action. Combine the above with an excellent performance from Wagner Moura, we almost sympathize with the dangers these men has to encounter as part of their daily life. Just when we are feeling sorry for this unit, José Padilha shocks us with their training methods and also their brutal treatment of criminals. At the end of the movie, we are left to question what is right and what is wrong. The answer to this question is not easy. During the final scene, Nascimento's choice completes his training by pulling the trigger. The screen whites out and we hear the shot. But what has happened off-screen plays up in our imagination and we cringe.

It is tough to find a genre for this. It is not an action movie. Although there are thrills, this is more of a drama. But there is no question if it is a good movie or not. It is a must watch for serious movie lovers.

You will find more about the movie here.

Language: Portuguese

Genre: Drama

Rating: ****

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