Winner of the Golden Bear at the 2008 Berlin Film Festival, 'Elite Squad' presents an intimate and disturbing look at Rio de Janeiro’s vast and intricate web of corruption.
'City of God' writer and Academy Award nominee Braulio Mantovani brings us this dramatic thriller set in 1997 in Rio's notorious favelas, the slums at the edge of the city. 'Troupa de Elita' is based on his co-writer Rodrigo Pimentel’s 19 years as a military police officer and BOPE (State Police Special Operations Battalion) Captain.
The film looks at life inside Rio's slums, dominated by drug-trafficking militias, over whom the police have little or no control - but outside of these renegade suburbs is where the corrupt cops rule. The only group that both the drug lords and dirty cops fear, or at least consider a threat, is the elite police force, BOPE. The captain of the force (Moura) is under dire pressure from his family to find a replacement and the two contenders (Junqueira and Ramiro) are life-long friends who battle it out for the top spot.
The captain's motto is: “Either a cop stays dirty or he chooses war” and his trainees put their lives on the line to prove their worth, through loyalty and courage.
The film's director, Padilha, has said: “In Rio, I see only shades of grey. Nothing is black or white and nothing is what it seems.” He has projected this belief in his film. While BOPE manage to keep order the life cost is great. The murky mess of violence and corruption makes it difficult to distinguish right from wrong and justice from revenge.
Surprisingly, Padilha has managed to inject numerous short spurts of humour into his intense drama, surreal moments juxtaposed against harsh life in the slum. Seconds after a bloodbath shoot-out and surrounded by bodies, the captain's wife rings to say that her waters have broken.
There is an edgy atmosphere of fear hanging over the action, which is perfectly reflected in the cinematography, pace and tone.
The film is an honest portrayal of police life in and out of the favelas, however it has a tendency to glorify the brutal tactics employed.
There is an undeniably right wing viewpoint, which isn't easy to ignore or swallow. Also, late into the shoot, Padilha added a continuous narration by the captain, which takes away from the natural flow and suspense of the film.
'Elite Squad' is a disconcertingly realistic police story, set in a city where life is cheap, guns are rampant and death lies around every corner. An intense, gripping thriller.