Tropa de Elite

Director:  José Padilha, Main Cast: Wagner MouraAndré RamiroCaio JunqueiraFernanda Machado;

At first this film may seem like City of God meets S.W.A.T. but it is more nuanced, while you watch it you realise that’s more like Homicide: Life on the Street or season 1 of The Wire. This is the story of Captain Nascimento (Wagner Moura) in 1997, who is a member of the BOPE, the elite police corps of Rio de Janeiro, highly trained in what is basically urban warfare. They are the answer to a two-fold problem: rampaging violence linked to the drug trafficking in Rio’s favelas and endemic corruption and poor training of the regular police. The BOPE uses rather extreme tactics to fight the drug dealers and they certainly have never heard of human rights or the Geneva Convention. On the other hand, drug lords have assault weapons and no restrain in using them, so it is indeed open war in the streets. Nascimento is good at his job but saying that he is tired and stressed is an understatement; he doesn’t want to die and leave his unborn son fatherless. He needs to find a replacement for his position before he can quit while making one of the favelas safe for the visit of the Pope. So telling his story is also telling the tale of Matias (Andre Ramiro) and Neto (Caio Junqueira), two young and honest policemen who decide to join the BOPE to do the right thing. In this way the director is able to show us, in a very compelling manner, disparate aspects of the life of Rio’s inhabitants: regular policemen, drug dealers and their cronies, middle-class students, NGO operators and, of course, BOPE men. The performances of the actors are convincing and intense, special kudos to Moura and Ramiro. It is a raw and gritty film, probably too strong for some but it’s worth your time. Riveting —8/10

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