Elite Squad (2008)


Director:  Jose Padilha
Cast:  Wagner MouraAndrĂ© Ramiro, Caio Junqueira
Plot:  During a brutal campaign to secure the Pope's 1997 visit to Rio de Janeiro, Captain Nascimento struggles to find a suitable replacement who will continue the BOPE's merciless efforts to infiltrate the favelas and wage war against their dominant drug underworld.

Genre:  Crime / Drama / Thriller

Awards:  Won Golden Bear (Berlin).
Runtime:  115min
Rating:  M18 for strong violence, pervasive language and drug content.


Elite Squad finally hits our shore months after its scheduled release in May. Written by the Oscar-nominated Braulio Mantovani (City of God, 2002), and directed by the up-and-coming Jose Padilha (Bus 174, 2002), Elite Squad represents what is so potent about visceral Brazilian cinema: its ability to depict explicitly the lives of people residing in the slums and the prevalent gang violence and drug culture that affect these people. Comparatively, Elite Squad is not as brilliant and entertaining as City Of God, which is perhaps the best film of its kind ever.

While Elite Squad shares thematic similarities with City Of God, both are quite different in their approach. The latter dissects the rise and fall of a drug gang, the violent activities that they carry out, and their devastating consequences. On the other hand, Elite Squad reveals the corruption in Brazil's police force and their inability to control the country’s drug underworld. 

The film also showcases Brazil's elite fighting unit (BOPE) which is often called upon to deal with such circumstances. In fact, Elite Squad mostly documents the disciplined lifestyle, tough regimentation, and the terrifyingly real life-and-death scenarios that BOPE soldiers are trained to go through.

Padilha's direction is masterful. Not for one moment does he take his foot off the pedal. Each sequence is interwoven carefully with rapid-fire editing, capturing the intensity that the film is trying to evoke. Here is a film that is difficult to watch because of its copious use of profanity and the severity of its violence. 

Elite Squad is exceptionally loud, in a noisy way if I might add. The use of heavy metal and dance music and the constant shouting from the actors become slightly irritating after a while, though initially it proves to be important because it sets the energetic, kinetic tone that the film manages to sustain throughout.

Elite Squad does not pul
l back on its punches, offering a gritty, realistic view of drug-infested Brazil at its worst. We know that justice will eventually prevail, but not without the loss of innocent lives, and the destruction of the lives of the living. What is left are a soulless country and the specters of its dirty past.


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